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.
Frederick George Partridge was born on 26th May 1890 in Kingsteignton, Devon. He was one of ten children to clay cutter George Partridge and his wife, Anna. George passed away in 1903, but Frederick left school, and also found work as a cutter, helping to pay his way at home.
When was came to Europe, Frederick was keen to play his part. He enlisted on 18th November 1915, and was assigned to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as a Rifleman. His service records show that he stood 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighed 145lbs (66kg). He was of good physical development, but had slightly flat feet.
After his initial training, Rifleman Partridge was sent to France, arriving in April 1916. His regiment soon found itself on the front line and, that summer, was firmly ensconced at the Somme. Sadly, Frederick was not to escape injury – he received a gun shot wound to his left thigh on 2nd September.
The wound was serious enough for him to be medically evacuated back to England for treatment. He was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, near Southampton, but died of his injuries on 12th September 1916. He was just 26 years of age.
Frederick George Partridge was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in Kingsteignton.
Norman Stanley Allard was born on 3rd December 1892 in the village of Corsley, Wiltshire, halfway between Frome and Warminster. The younger of two children, his parents were Benjamin and Mercy Allard. Benjamin was a farmer who passed away when his son was only 14 years old. Mercy, who was born in Frome, moved the family back to her home town and Norman found work as a clerk at a printing firm in the area.
War came to Europe and, in December 1915, Norman was called up. There is little specific information about his military service, although his records show that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and had varicocele – enlarged veins in his scrotum – listed as Distinctive Marks.
Initially assigned to the King’s Royal Rifles, Private Allard spent the first year of his service on home soil. He was eventually dispatched to France in March 1917, serving there for a year. On 22nd March 1918, he was wounded in a gas attack, and medically evacuated back to England.
He was called back into service, and assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment. He remained on home soil, working as part of the Labour Corps in Cley-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. Sadly, however, it seems that his injuries were to prove too much, and the now Corporal Allard was discharged from military service after just three months.
At this point, Norman’s trail goes cold. He returned home, and passed away there on 13th March 1919. He was just 26 years of age.
Norman Stanley Allard was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church. This became a family grave, and his mother and sister were also buried there when they passed in 1924 and 1940.
Henry Thomas Preece was born in the summer of 1884, one of seven children to agricultural labourer Tom Preece and his wife, Sarah. Thomas had been born in the Somerset village of Nunney, and it was here that he raised his family.
When Henry left school, he chose not to follow in his father’s agricultural footsteps. By the time of the 1911 census, he was recorded as a baker and, as such, would have been at the heart of village life in Nunney.
Henry married local woman Ellen Stone in 1909, who was a dressmaker with her own account. The couple would go on to have four children between 1909 and 1916.
With war looming, Henry felt the need to play his part. He joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in January 1916 and, after training, was sent to France a couple of months later.
He was wounded on July 25th, when out with a wiring party erecting barbed wire obstacles. He received a gun-shot wound in the abdomen, which also injured the spinal cord and his back. He was first taken to the South African Hospital at the base, and after being there for several days he was removed to England and take to the Netley Hospital where he died…
Somerset Standard: Friday 8th September 1916
Lance Corporal Preece died on 3rd September 1916, at the age of 32 years old. His body was brought back to Nunney, where he was laid to rest in the family grave at All Saints’ Church.
Basil Scott-Holmes was born on 2nd February 1884 in the Somerset village of Wookey. The oldest of two children, his father was Liverpool-born Thomas Scott-Holmes and his wife, Katherine. When Basil was born, Thomas was the vicar of St Matthew’s Church, Wookey, but by 1901, he had risen to the role of clergyman – and subsequently Chancellor – at Wells Cathedral.
Basil’s pedigree stood him in good stead. Initially educated in Llandaff, South Wales, he subsequently attended Sherborne School in Dorset. Sent up to Cambridge, he studied history at Sidney Sussex College.
After leaving university, Basil spent time in Europe learning German and French. He was then assigned the role of Assistant Commissioner in North Nigeria but, after a year there he was invalided home taking up a teaching role at the Bristol Grammar School in 1912.
In July 1913, Basil married Barbara Willey, a surgeon’s daughter from Reigate, Surrey. The marriage record shows that Basil was registrar for an architectural association by this point; the couple went on to have two children, daughters Annette and Prudence.
When the war broke out, he was obviously keen to do his bit. In September 1914 he enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps, before gaining a commission in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps a couple of months later. In the spring of 1916, Lieutenant Scott-Holmes had been seconded to the Machine Gun Corps, although it is unclear whether he served abroad during any of his time in the army.
On the evening of 24th October 1916, Lieutenant Scott-Holmes was riding in a motorcycle sidecar through central London, on the way back to camp. A local newspaper picked up the story:
…they stopped when going through Wandsworth to re-light the near light, and in the dark a motor omnibus ran into them, and Lieutenant [Scott-Holmes], who was strapped in the side-car, was, with the car, flung across the road. He died as he was being taken to Wandsworth Hospital. At the subsequent inquest, a verdict of “accidental death” was returned.
Central Somerset Gazette: Friday 3rd November 1916
Basil Scott-Holmes was just 32 years old. His body was brought back to Somerset; he was laid to rest in the cemetery at Wells Cathedral.
Arthur William Langdon was born on 23rd December 1882, the son of Rose Langdon, from the Somerset village of Chiselborough. While Arthur’s father is lost to time, Rose married Frederick Hockey in 1886, and the couple went on to have three children – half-siblings to Arthur.
Arthur was destined for a life of adventure, and in 1902, at the age of 19, enlisted as a Rifleman in the King’s Royal Rifles, a career that was to last more than a decade.
On 13th April 1903, Arthur married Florence Beatrice Druce, who was also from Chiselborough. Noticeably absent from the marriage certificate was the name of the groom’s father; he was simply marked as ‘unknown’. The newlyweds would go on to have a son, also called Arthur, the following year.
Rifleman Langdon was soon destined for service overseas, however. After 18 months in South Africa, he returned to England for a year. He was sent to India for four years; it is likely that Florence went with him, or at least that Arthur returned home on leave during this time, as two further children – Henry and Reginald – were born in 1907 and the summer of 1910 respectively.
Arthur returned to England in February 1910, and remained on reserve home service – supplementing his income by working as a gardener – until the outbreak of the First World War. During this time he and Florence had two further children, Frederick, born in 1912, and Ivy, born just a month before war broke out.
With the start of the conflict, Rifleman Langdon was send to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. After five months on the Western Front, he had a brief respite back in England, before being shipped back to France in May 1915, and on to Salonika in the Balkans that November.
Rifleman Langdon did not stay in Greece for long, however. Within a couple of months he was back in England and on 14th April 1916, he was discharged from the army on medical grounds. Sadly, details of the cause of his exit from the army are not detailed.
Arthur was not one to rest on his laurels, however, and continued work as a gardener and labourer. Military life wasn’t far away, though, and in June 1918, he enlisted again, this time joining the Royal Air Force as a Private.
Initially based at Long Sutton, Arthur moved to Edinburgh Castle in March 1919. Full details of his time there are lost, but he remained in Scotland until being demobbed at the end of April 1920.
Details of Arthur’s life back on civvy street are not available. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away on 28th February 1921, at the age of 38 years old. Arthur William Langdon was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Margaret’s Church in the Somerset village of Middle Chinnock, where his widow now lived.
Henry Samuel Rowe was born in Shoreditch, London, on 18th August 1873. He was one of three children to Henry and Amelia Rowe. Henry Sr was a stonemason, who died in 1876, when Henry was only three years old.
Amelia moved her and her children to the Sussex Downs, and married again in 1883. Her new husband was John Herrington, and the couple went on to have three further children, Henry’s half-siblings. John was a farm labourer, and his stepson followed in his footsteps when he left school.
Henry soon sought other accomplishments, however, and, in October 1895, he joined the King’s Royal Rifles. During his twelve years’ service, he travelled the world, from Mauritius, to India, South Africa to Sri Lanka. He returned home in December 1903 serving on home soil until the end of his contract in 1907.
On 23rd April 1905, he married a widow, Amelia Routledge, in Brighton. There is no confirmation of the couple going on to have children.
Once demobbed, Henry found employment with the railways, and, by the time of the 1911 census, was working as a signalman. The document records him as boarding in a house in the village of Rudgwick, near Horsham; Amelia, meanwhile, was lodging with a family in South East London.
War was on the horizon, and, in August 1914, Henry volunteered. His time with the King’s Royal Rifles, stood him in good stead; after initially enlisting as a Private in the Royal Sussex Regiment, he was quickly promoted to Corporal and, by November 1914, had transferred to the Royal Engineers and attained the role of Sergeant.
Henry had spent just over a year in France, when he was shot in the right arm on 18th July 1916. Medically evacuated to England, he spent three months recuperating, before heading back into the fray in October the same year.
Henry served another eighteen months on the Front Line, before being admitted to hospital. His medical admission records show that he was suffering from “tremulous speech, confused… conversation, transitory admissions [sic?] of a grandiose type, outbursts of excitement, says he is a man of importance, childish, facile, simpleminded…” His condition was recorded as General Paralysis of the Insane (GPI), more commonly known these days as shellshock, and he was medically discharged from the Army on 4th September 1918.
Sadly, at this point Sergeant Rowe’s trail goes cold. He seems to have been hospitalised following his discharge, but the documents give conflicting suggestions about where he was admitted. Amelia was still living in South London, one record suggests Henry was in the Welsh Metropolitan Hospital in Whitchurch, near Cardiff. But, as he was buried in Worthing, West Sussex, it seems unlikely that he remained in Wales.
The cause of Henry’s passing is not evident either. There is no confirmation that GPI was to blame, but nothing to suggest it was not either. Whatever the cause, Sergeant Rowe died on 14th November 1918, three days after the conflict to which he had given so much had been brought to a close. He was 49 years old.
Henry Samuel Rowe lies at rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in Worthing, West Sussex.
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.
When carrying out research on the Commonwealth War Graves, information remains tantalisingly elusive.
Sometimes just you can chance upon one document and the life of the person behind the name is laid out in front of you.
But in the majority of cases, the someone’s history has to be pieced together from a combination of sources.
Henry Harry Trevitic was born in around 1879 in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire.
There are no records of Trevetics in and around that area at that time, nor are there any permutations of his surname – Trevethick or Trevithick, for example.
The first evidence I have found of Harry is on his military service records. He enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifles in August 1897, listing himself as a ‘cycle fitter’. The document asks if the applicant has previously served in the armed forces; Harry’s reply is that he is in the militia – the 4th Worcestershire Regiment.
Rifleman Trevetic’s military career is extensive; his records show continual service in the King’s Royal Rifles from 1897 to his death in 1915. This included three years in South Africa, two in India and eight months as part of the British Expeditionary Force within weeks of the outbreak of World War One.
The 1901 census finds Rifleman Trevetic at a convalescent home in Hanbury, near Droitwich, along with eleven other soldiers. He is marked as a Visitor, rather than a Resident, so it can be assumed that the owner of the home, whose brother is party of the military party, has put them up for the night (or longer).
Harry next turns up in 1902 when, in December, he married Frances Boyes in Southampton. His military career continued, however, and moving to the 1911 census, and Rifleman Trevetic is barracked in Woolwich. He is listed as married, while Frances is also based in the town, in female quarters.
While the details of his early life are pretty scarce, those surrounding his passing are much more in depth. Because of the circumstances, an inquest into his passing was ordered into his death; this included four pretty in-depth witness statements.
In January 1914, Rifleman Trevetic was appointed as an assistant to Captain Adjutant Makins in Winchester. In August of that year he was shipped with Makins to France and remained his servant.
On 14th September, Captain Makins was badly injured, and Harry helped carry him to the church in the village of Soupir in France, which was acting as a dressing station.
In Makins’ own words “there were 300 wounded closely packed, occupying the whole of the floor space. The groans and the smell, night and day were most distressing. Fresh wounded were constantly being carried in and dead carried out. Shell fire was constant and the general conditions were such as would severely try a highly strung man. During all this time, [Rifleman Trevetic] was my only attendant.”
Makins was moved to various hospitals in France, always accompanied by Rifleman Trevetic and eventually invalided home. Given the seriousness of Captain Makins’ injury, he was permitted to bring Harry back home with him.
On 1st March 1915, Captain Makins was passed fit for general service, and rejoined his battalion, along with his servant. Conscious that he may be sent back to the Front at any point, he warned Harry to be prepared for France again.
Captain Makins’ testimony takes up the tragic story.
On March 9th, he came to me and asked if I would see the Doctor on his behalf privately. He told me that every since his time in the dressing station at Soupir, his nerves had been ajar, and that he could neither eat nor sleep. He asked whether I could get the Doctor to do something for him, as he feared if he went sick in the ordinary way, he would be passed unfit for the front, and be unable to accompany me there, which he was very keen on doing.
Later in the day he came to me and asked me to take no notice of what he had said in the morning, that as a matter of fact he had taken to drink, which was the true cause of his trouble, and that he was entirely giving it up and would be right within a week.
His whole manner was strange and he appeared under the impression that I had discharged him. This was the first intimation I had of any strangeness in his manner.
Being busy I did not pay the attention to it that perhaps I should, more especially as I knew him to be a thoroughly sober and reliable man.
The following day he called me as usual.
About 8:30 am I was called from the mess and asked to proceed to my room at once. On arrival, I found the door locked, and various Officers’ servants outside. The key was on the inside of the door but so turned that the body of Rifleman Trevetic could be seen through the keyhole lying on the floor.
I broke open the door and found Rifleman Trevetic shot through the heart, my revolver lying by his side. The revolver contained one empty shell, I cannot say where this was obtained. There were a few rounds of ammunition in the room, but the marks did not correspond nor am I able to trace any similar ammunition in the Fort.
Captain G Makins’ statement, Inquest from Rifleman Trevetic’s service records
Three other servicemen gave statements into the tragic events of that day, and all summed up Harry’s demeanour in the same way as Captain Makins.
Rifleman Trevetic has throughout his service to me, been a model servant, and had during my time in hospital not only been invaluable to me, but also to the hospitals themselves. He was very happily married, and constantly spoke affectionately of his wife and as far as I can tell, was in no financial difficulties.
Captain G Makins’ statement, Inquest from Rifleman Trevetic’s service records
The inquest found that his death was self-inflicted and “at the time he shot himself he was temporarily insane, and that his mental condition was clearly caused by what he saw and went through when on Active Service in France, and that there was no other contributory cause.”
Temporary insanity, shell shock, war neurosis, combat stress, cowardice; however it was badged Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is commonly recognised these days, but was frowned upon in the Great War.
Sadly, while appearing eager to accompany his superior, it seems that the thought of actually returning to the Western Front was so terrifying to Rifleman Trevetic, that he felt there was only one route out. He was 36 years old.
Harry Trevetic lies at rest in the quiet graveyard of St James’ Church on the Isle of Grain, metres from the fort where he ended his life.
Harry’s widow Frances lived on. Whilst there was no mention of her husband’s death in the newspapers of the time, she received a handsome war gratuity and a pension that reflected Harry’s long service. She went on to marry again in 1917, to Jack Finch, a Sergeant in Harry’s battalion.
Given the stigma around mental health in the early twentieth century, and, it is amazing that the documents have survived as part of the Harry’s military records. The inquest into his death was carried out within days of his passing, and I find the findings of the report forward thinking in the way that it was written.
Harry was obviously a man who experienced way more than his mind was able to cope with – the trauma of that dressing station must have been so much worse than he had seen before during his two decades’ military service. But the report is clear in that it apportions blame for his death on the fighting and bloodshed in France; this was clearly out of character for Harry, and it was his experiences in the field of battle that drove him to his death.
What is less clear is how much Frances was told of his death. While the inquest was decisive, suicide was as much of a stigma as shell shock at that time. Would the King’s Royal Rifles have be honest with her about how he died? Or, while they where internally open, would they have pulled ranks around their own and protected Frances from the truth and themselves from rebuke?
Harold Edward Shelbrooke was born in Poplar, East London, the eldest son of Edward and Jane. One of seven children, Harold lost his father – a labourer in the local gasworks – when he was only eight.
To support his mother – most of his sisters having moved on – he soon found employment as an umbrella maker, and by the 1911 census he had worked his way up to the position of warehouseman.
In July 1915, he married Alice Pulley; six months later their son, George was born. The young family had moved south of the Thames by now, and were living in Greenwich.
Private Shelbrooke’s military records are pretty sparse; he enlisted after marrying Alice – their Banns show him as an umbrella maker – and served in the King’s Royal Rifles.
He saw battle on the Western Front and was involved in the Battle of Menin Road Ridge at Ypres. Harold’s military documents record him as wounded and missing on the day of that battle – 20th September 1917 – and he was officially declared dead on 9th November that year. He was 33-years-old.
Private Shelbrooke has lost his father at the age of eight; his son, George, was not even two years old.
Private Harold Shelbrooke is commemorated at the Tyne Cot memorial in Zonnebeke, Belgium.
Harold Edward Shelbrooke was my first cousin, three times removed.