Tag Archives: injury

CWG: Private Alfred Beake

Private Alfred Beake

Alfred Beake was born in December 1898 and was one of nine children to Alfred and Charlotte Beake. Alfred Sr was a baker from Westonzoyland in Somerset, but it was in Chard that he and Charlotte had set up home and raised their family.

There is little documented about Alfred’s life. He played his part in the First World War, and had joined the Worcestershire Regiment by November 1918. His troop – the 5th (Reserve) Battalion – was a territorial force, and he would have split his time between Harwich, Essex, and Plymouth, Devon.

Private Beake survived the war and, by the spring of 1919 had been moved to Dublin. It was here on 18th May that he met with colleagues Private Simpson and Swindlehurst in the centre of the city. The trio caught a tram to the coastal town of Howth for a day out, where tragedy struck.

The Dublin Evening Telegraph reported on what happened next:

Private Sydney Simpson, Royal Engineers, stated… when they got to Howth, they walked along the Cliff Walk for about a mile, when they saw some seagulls down the cliff. [Beake and Swindlehurst] went out of witness’s sight for a while, when he heard a shout from Swindlehurst for help. On hurrying back, he saw Swindlehurst looking towards the sea, and he said the deceased had slipped down. The cliff was so steep that, although they tried to get down, they could not do so. Witness sent for help. None of the party had taken any drink.

Private Swindlehurst… said that he and deceased climbed down the grassy slope to get some seagulls’ eggs, but that the deceased suddenly slipped down. There was no horseplay going on at the time when the accident took place.

Captain Wynne, Royal Army Medical Corps, who made a post mortem examination, described the terrible injuries which the deceased had sustained. Death must have been instantaneous.

Dublin Evening Telegraph: Wednesday 21st May 1919

Private Beake had suffered a fractured skull from the fall. He was just 20 years of age.

Alfred Beake’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in Chard Cemetery.


Alfred’s oldest brother, Walter George Beake, had also served in the First World War.

Private Beake fought with the 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, and was involved in some of the key skirmishes of the Somme. But it was at Ypres that he was buried alive during an attack, and the resulting shell shock left him totally incapacitated.

Walter was discharged from the army on medical grounds in September 1916. He returned home to try and piece his life together again. He never married, and passed away in December 1978, at the age of 87 years old.


CWG: Private Wilfred Vines

Private Wilfred Vines

Wilfred Vines was born on 19th March 1897 and was one of seventeen children to John and Emma Vines. John was an elastic web maker or braider from Stroud, Gloucestershire, and it was in nearby Wotton-under-Edge that he and Emma raised their growing family.

Braiding and weaving ran in the family: the 1911 census recorded six of the Vines’ children who were over school age were employed in the local mill. This included Wilfred, who was working as a bobbin collector.

War came to Europe, and Wilfred was keen to play his part. He enlisted on 25th May 1915, joining the 15th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private. His records show that he stood just 5ft 2ins (1.57m) tall.

Private Vines was sent for training to the camp at Chiseldon, Wiltshire. It seems that, while he was there, he was injured and, although full details are not available, his wounds were serious enough for him to be discharged from the army because of them. He was formally released on 30th May 1916, and returned home to recover and recuperate.

At this point, Wilfred’s trail goes cold. All that is recorded is that, on 5th November 1917, he passed away at home from his injuries. He was just 20 years of age.

Wilfred was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin Church in his home town. He shares his grave with his younger brother, Leslie, who died the following year.


CWG: Rifleman Bert Burridge

Rifleman Bert Burridge

Bert Burridge was born in the spring of 1893, one of nine children to Charles and Elizabeth. Charles was a journeyman shoemaker from Crediton in Devon, and this is where Bert was born. By the time of the 1901 census, however, the family had moved south to Newton Abbot.

When Bert left school, he found work as a carriage cleaner for the railways; he soon moved out, and boarded with a family in Kingsbridge, in the south of the county.

War was coming to England’s shores, however, and Bert was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as a Rifleman on 16th January 1912. His service records show that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall, and weighed 121lbs (55kg). He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, and a tattoo on right wrist of two crossed hands.

When war broke out, Rifleman Burridge was sent to France and was caught up in the fighting early on. After three months at the front, during the winter of 1914, he contracted frostbite, and was medically evacuated back to England. He was admitted to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton, but died of injuries on 9th February 1915. He was just 22 years of age.

Bert Burridge’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, on the outskirts of Newton Abbot.


Bert’s headstone also includes a commemoration to his older brother, Frank. Seven years older than Bert, he had enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment as a Bugler when quite young. He passed away in the autumn of 1906, aged just 20, but further details are unclear.


CWG: Pioneer James McDowell

Pioneer James McDowell

James Valentine McDowell was born in Ashburton, Devon, on 2nd January 1865. He was one of eight children to William and Louisa McDowell. William was a labourer, and this was a trade that James also took up when he left school.

In the summer of 1884, James was brought up to the Devon Assizes in Exeter, on the charge of attempted suicide. A local newspaper reported that:

It appeared that on June 13th the prisoner, fully dressed, was seen lying at full length in the Yeo, his head resting on a stone, but the remainder of his body was under water. The stream, however, was but three feet deep and six feet wide at this particular point, so the actual danger was not very great.

A witness seeing the position of the prisoner called upon him to come out of the water. He did so. He was very drunk. On leaving the Yeo, the prisoner proceeded towards the Dart, and on his way wished the witness to bid his father and mother good bye. Arrived at the Dart the prisoner attempted to throw himself into the water, but was prevented and handed over to the police.

When in custody the prisoner said this was the second time he had been in the water: next time should be more lucky. Subsequently, however, he stated that he only went to the Yeo for a wash, and this statement he now repeated.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty, and his Lordship, in discharging the prisoner, advised him next time he wanted a bath not to get drunk beforehand, or he might find himself in deeper water than that in which he was discovered on the present occasion.

Western Times: Saturday 26th July 1884

The same Assizes saw trials for embezzlement, horse stealing, larceny, stack-burning and endeavouring to conceal the birth of a child. The alleged perpetrator of a count of buggery was found not guilty (his alleged offence not named in the same newspaper), while a Henry Davy, 51, was sentenced to 18 months’ hard labour for indecently assaulting a 6 year old girl.

The following year found James back on track. He married local woman Mary Ellen Ellery; the couple set up home in Ashburton and went on to have seven children. The family settled into a routine – James worked as a mason’s labourer; in his spare time, he joined the 3rd Devon Militia. His and Mary’s daughters found work as wool spinners, while their sons also got into labouring work.

War came to Europe in 1914; despite his age, James wanted to play his part. He enlisted when the call came, joining the Royal Engineers as a Pioneer on 19th August 1915. Within a week he was sent to France, and this is where he stayed for the duration of the war.

Pioneer McDowell returned to England on furlough on 2nd February 1919, and was waiting to be demobbed. However, tragedy struck before that became a reality, the same newspaper picking up the story some thirty-five years later:

An Ashburton man named James McDowell, aged about 56 years, a private in the Royal Engineers Labour Battalion, who joined up in August 1915, and had been in France continuously since that time, was found drowned in the mill leat of the the River Yeo at the rear of the cottages in Kingsbridge-lane early on Saturday morning.

He left his home at Great Bridge about 8:30 on Friday night for a short time. To get to the town he had to pass along by the river, which was running very high through the recent heavy rain, and it is supposed that he must have fallen in and had been washed down to where he was found, which was a considerable distance.

He had been demobilised, and was on furlough, and every sympathy is expressed for the family on their sad loss. Dowell [sic] who was well known and was of a jovial disposition, leaves a widow and grown up family.

Western Times: Monday 24th February 1919

Later that week, a summary of the inquest was printed:

Dr EA Ellis said he found a ragged cut over deceased’s left eyebrow, but otherwise there was no sign of violence. The cut was inflicted before death. A post mortem revealed that the cause of death was drowning. His theory was that deceased fell into the river, his head coming into contact with a stone, which inflicted the wound and caused unconsciousness. The spot where the accident was supposed to have happened, he thought, was unsafe and dangerous.

…the jury returned a verdict that the deceased was found drowned, caused by accidentally falling over the wall at the top of North Street… and they wished… to call the attention of the responsible authorities to the danger at this spot, and to the unsatisfactory state of the lighting there.

Western Times: Friday 28th February 1919.

Pioneer James Valentine McDowell drowned on 21st February 1919: he was 56 years of age. His body was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Andrew’s Church in his home village.


CWG: Boy Clifford Day

Boy Clifford Day

Clifford Day was born on 27th November 1897 in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. He was one of eleven children to John and Sophia Day. John initially worked as a general labourer for a stonemason, but by the time of the 1911 census, he had begun working for a gas company. The family, at this point, were living in a five-room house a short distance from the town centre.

Living in a large household, a dream of escape may have fermented in young Clifford’s mind. To see some of the world, he joined the Royal Navy on 3rd September 1913. Given he was only fifteen, he was too young to formally enlist, but he was given the rank of Boy, and set to work.

Clifford’s service papers confirmed that he stood at 4ft 11ins (1.48m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. It was also noted that he had a scar on his forehead.

Boy Day’s service began on HMS Impregnable, when he spent nine months learning the ropes. He moved on to HMS Gibraltar in May 1914, before transferring to HMS Vivid – the shore-based establishment in Devonport – at the outbreak of the First World War.

On 3rd October 1914, Clifford was assigned to the battlecruiser HMS Tiger. He was on board for only three weeks, when he was taken back to HMS Vivid, and sent to the Naval Hospital there. He was admitted with a fractured skull, sadly passing the next day – the 26th October 1914 – at the age of just 16 years old. I’ve been unable to locate any further information about his injury, other than that an inquest found that it was accidental death.

Clifford Day was brought back to Weston-super-Mare for burial. He was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in the town.


CWG: Private Percy Coward

Private Percy Coward

Percy Herbert Coward was born in the Wiltshire town of Westbury in the autumn of 1896. He was one of seven children – all boys – to Lily Coward and her weaver husband Charles. Not long after Percy was born, the family moved across the county border to Frome, Somerset, presumably for Charles’ work.

By the time of the 1911 census, the Coward family were living in a five-room end-of-terrace cottage on the outskirts of the town. Charles and Percy were both working as warpers – threading looms – in the cloth industry; two of his brothers were working for a printer in the town. Percy was proving himself an integral part of the community.

[Percy] was very highly esteemed by a large circle of acquaintances… He was a worker with the YMCA and Frome Brotherhood, a member of the band and in other directions showed himself a young man of much promise. He was employed successively at Messrs Houston’s [Woollen Mill] and at the Silk Factory.

Somerset Standard: Friday 26th April 1918

An active member of the town’s territorial force, when the Great War broke out he was mobilised. Initially attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps, he subsequently served with the Royal Army Service Corps and the North Staffordshire Regiment, before obtaining his final transfer to the 42nd Company of the Machine Gun Corps.

During his time in the army, Private Coward would have seen action in some of the fiercest battles of the war – at the Somme, Arras and Ypres. In the spring of 1918, his battalion was involved in the Battles of St Quentin and the Avre, and it was during this last skirmish that he was wounded.

Percy’s injuries were severe enough for him to be medically evacuated back to England and, once there, he was admitted to the Royal Woolwich Hospital in South London. His wounds were to prove too much for him, however, and he passed away at the hospital on 12th April 1918. He was just 21 years of age.

Percy Herbert Coward was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the Dissenters’ Cemetery, Vallis Road, within walking distance of his family home.


CWG: Captain Hugh Brooking

Captain Hugh Brooking

Hugh Cyril Arthur Brooking was born on 15th September 1870 and was one of six children (although he also had three further half-siblings through his father’s first marriage). His father, Arthur Brooking, was the vicar of the Hertfordshire village of Bovingdon, and it was in the vicarage that he and his wife Marian raised their family (with the help of seven servants).

Hugh led a life befitting of a reverend’s son; he was educated at St Mark’s School in Windsor, Lancing College and Down College, both in Sussex. He continued his studies at the Mining College in London (now part of Imperial College London), and went out to South Africa to further that work.

The local newspaper reporting on his funeral takes up the story:

When the Boer War broke out he joined the Imperial Light Horse, and was engaged in the battles of Elandslaagte, Wagon Hill and others, was in Ladysmith during the siege, and the relief of Mafeking. He was several times mentioned in despatches, and obtained the Queen’s medal and six clasps, and the King’s medal with two clasps. He then joined the South African Constabulary, under General Baden Powell.

He had previously held a commission in the North Somerset Yeomanry, and after leaving it for a short time he re-joined a soon as the [First World War] was declared, and was in France with his regiment when it made its famous stand against the Prussian Guards. All his superior officers were killed or wounded, and he was temporarily in command of the regiment.

He received the ribbon of the 1914 Star of Mons, but did not live to get the star. He served with the regiment 20 years. He was latterly attached to the Labour Corps at West Ham.

Captain Brooking came to Frome with his parents as a boy. In his youth he was a thorough sportsman, well known in the hunting field, genial and kindly, ready with a pleasant word, and courteous to all, he won friendly appreciation from all classes of townsfolk.

He had seen a great deal of fighting, though from exposure and other causes his health suffered, and he was employed on home service.

He was in command of the 371st Labour Company, and second in command of his battalion, when he met with the slight accident which led to his death. He grazed his knuckles, causing bleeding, but of so slight a character that no notice was taken of it. A few hours later he again struck his hand ,and fresh paint appears to have affected the wound, and blood poisoning supervened.

Somerset Standard: Friday 7th June 1918.

In his personal life, Hugh had met and married Florence Day, a farmer’s daughter seventeen years his junior from Somerset. The wedding was in the autumn of 1912, and they would go on to have two children, Granville and Hugh Jr. The boys would both go on to lead distinguished lives, Granville in the armed forces and Hugh as a ‘King’s Messenger’ in South America.

Following Captain Brooking’s injury, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Purfleet but the treatment he received there was to do no good. Three months after the accident, on 31st May 1918, he passed away; he was 47 years of age.

Hugh Cyril Arthur Brooking’s body was taken back to Frome; he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in the town.


Larger memorial image loading...
Captain Hugh Brooking
(from findagrave.com)

CWG: Leading Victualling Assistant George Crossley

Leading Victualling Assistant George Crossley

George Crossley was born on 30th December 1861 in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth, Devon. The oldest of five children, his parents were John and Charlotte. John died when George was only ten years old, leaving his widow to raise the family alone.

Left as the technical head of the family, George sought a reliable career and, in August 1877, aged just 15 years old he joined the merchant navy. After two years at the rank of Boy, he formally joined the crew, working as a Ship’s Steward’s Assistant.

Over the initial ten years of his service, George served on four ships, primarily the Royal Adelaide. In 1889, having seen the world, he signed up for a further decade. This new period of service saw him move up to Ship’s Steward, before working back in the assistant role.

In December 1899, George’s twenty years’ service came to an end. Charlotte, by this time, was in her mid-60s, and perhaps he felt it better to spend time ashore with her, rather than leaving her alone.

His experience did not count for nothing, however, and he found employment as a labourer in the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. And so another fourteen years passed, before war rose its ugly head.

George was called back into service at the start of the conflict, and resumed his role as a Ship’s Steward’s Assistant. Over the next few years, he served on a couple of ships, but the majority of his time was spent at the shore establishments in Portsmouth, Dover and Chatham. In 1917, George gained the rank of Leading Victualling Assistant, giving him some of the responsibility for the food stores at Chatham Dockyard.

Towards the end of 1918, George seems to have been in the east of the county, when he fractured and dislocated his left ankle. Little specific information is available, but it seems that he was admitted to the Royal Infirmary in Deal, but died of his wounds on 20th December. He was ten days short of his 57th birthday. An inquest later that month reached a verdict of accidental death.

Brought back to Gillingham, George Crossley was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in the town.


CWG: Private Arthur Westby

Private Arthur Westby

Arthur William George Westby was born in the spring of 1895, the only child to Arthur Henry Westby and his wife, Emma. Arthur Sr was a Corporal in the Scots Guards, but, beyond the fact that his son was born in Clapham, South London, there is little further information about Arthur Jr’s early life.

His father’s military career must have taken him across the country – the 1901 census lists Emma and Arthur Jr living in Bolton, Lancashire, even though there seem to be no connections with the county for them.

The records for Arthur Jr go quiet until 1920. At this point, documents hint at his military service during the Great War.

The death notices in the Sussex newspapers confirm his passing:

On November 19th 1920, at The Cedars, 13 Browning Road, Worthing, Arthur WG Westby (late MT, RASC), beloved husband of Ethel Westby, and only son of Ex-RQM Sergeant and Mrs Westby, 34 Wenban Road, Worthing. Patiently suffered to the end, result of Active Service.

Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 24th November 1920

There is no further information available about Ethel, and no marriage records to confirm a date for their wedding.

From a military perspective, Arthur enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps, and was attached to the Motor Transport division. Again, there is nothing to evidence when he enlisted or for how long he served. It seems that Private Westby was injured in the line of duty, and was medically discharged in April 1918. The injury appears to have been life-changing, and it affected him until the end of his life.

Arthur William George Westby passed away in Worthing on 19th November 1920, aged just 25 years old. The specific cause of his death is unknown. He was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in the town, close to his parents and widow.


CWG: Lance Corporal Edgar Godden

Lance Corporal Edgar Godden

Edgar Godden was born in the summer of 1892, one of eight children to John and Alice Godden. John came from Littlehampton, and Alice from Worthing, and this is where they raised their family.

John was a bricklayer, and it was this trade that Edgar went into when he left school. War was coming to Europe, however, and, within weeks of the conflict breaking out, he had volunteered his services.

Edgar joined the Royal Sussex Regiment, and was assigned to the 7th (Service) Battalion. Details of his military service are a little sketchy, but a newspaper article, written after his death, gives a hint about what happened to him.

Mr Edgar Godden… who was twenty-five years of age and leave a widow and a little child, enlisted on the 1st September 1914, and was wounded in the arm in September of the following year. In October 1916 he was blown up and buried by an enemy mine. Last February he was taken out of the trenches and sent to a hospital in France, and last April he came home to England and had an arm amputated. Since his discharge from the Seventh Royal Sussex Regiment, he had been a member of the staff of the Post Office, and was known as “The One-armed Postman”.

Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 10th January 1918.

In the autumn of 1916, and recovering from his injuries Lance Corporal Godden married Emily Owers. They lived with John and Alice, but I have been unable to find details of the child mentioned in the newspaper report.

It seems that his injuries had left Edgar in a weakened state, and, after a ‘short and painful illness’ [Worthing Gazette: 2nd January 1918], he passed away on 22nd December 1917. He was just 25 years of age.

Edgar Godden was laid to rest, finally at peace, in the Broadwater Cemetery in his home town of Worthing, West Sussex.


The newspaper report above gave a little more information about a couple of Edgar’s siblings.

Mr & Mrs [John] Godden had one son killed in action in November 1916; and still another – the eldest – is now in France, as a member of the Royal Engineers.

Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 10th January 1918

Edgar’s oldest brother – also called John – survived the war, but it was his younger brother, Charles, who was killed in action.

A Corporal in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, Charles was caught up in the Battle of the Somme. It was while fighting in the Battle of the Ancre on 13th November 1916, that he was killed. He is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial in Northern France, and is also commemorated on Edgar’s own headstone.


One last aside to Edgar’s story is his address in the last few years of his life. John and Alice were living in Worthing, specifically at a house called “Chiswick” in Tarring Road, to the west of the town.

Coincidentally, when researching another soldier, Private Ernest Parsons, this turns out to be the address where he also died, just ten months later on 4th October 1918. There is no apparent other link between the two men.