Tag Archives: Lance Corporal

CWG: Lance Corporal Edmund Durnford

Lance Corporal Edmund Durnford

Edmund George Durnford was born in the spring of 1881 in the Somerset village of Pitcombe. The second oldest of twelve children, he was the oldest son to Edmund and Eliza Durnford. Edmund Sr was an agricultural labourer who travelled with the work – the 1891 census recorded the family living in Mells, near Frome.

When Edmund Jr left school, he found work at an ironmonger’s. He moved to Midsomer Norton and, in 1907, he married local carter’s daughter Bessie Welch. The young couple set up home in a terraced house on the road to nearby Radstock, and went on to have two children: Ian, who was born in 1908, and Ronald, born the following year.

War came to Europe, and Edmund was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps as a Driver, and was assigned to the 827th Company. Full details of his service are not available, but he remained part of the territorial force and was promoted to Lance Corporal.

The local newspaper of the time reported on what became of Edmund:

Lance Corporal Edward [sic] G Durnford, Army Service Corps… son of Mr and Mrs EG Durnford… died suddenly on April 18 at Duston Hospital, Northampton, from shell shock and hemorrhage [sic] of the brain, was 38 years of age. The body was brought back from Northampton, and the deceased accorded a military funeral at Midsomer Norton last week.

Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer: Friday 3rd May 1918

There are a couple of inconsistencies with the report. The newspaper has Edmund’s name wrong, while his pension record does not mention shell shock as the cause of death (it confirms the cerebral haemorrhage, but also cites a granular kidney). Given that Lance Corporal Durnford did not serve abroad, it seems unlikely that shell shock was a contributing factor.

The same article also places three of Edmund’s brothers in the war, and gives an insight into what had become of them before the conflict. Gunner Percy Durnford was with the Canadian Field Artillery, training in the South of England; Sergeant Major Arthur Durnford, of the Australian Light Horse, was based in Sydney; Bombardier Horace Durnford, of the Royal Garrison Artillery, had served in France, where he had been gassed, but was, at the time of his oldest brother’s death, based in Egypt.

Edmund George Durnford died in Northampton on 18th April 1918. He was 38 years of age. His body was brought back to Somerset, and he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Midsomer Norton.


Edmund’s younger son, Ronald, served in the Second World War. He joined the Royal Artillery, reaching the rank of Lance Bombardier. Ronald was serving in the Far East early in 1942, and for the next year, no news was heard of him.

However, contact was made in March 1943, confirming that Ronald had been captured by the Japanese, and was a prisoner of war in Borneo. Three months later, his wife, Kathleen, received a postcard from him, confirming he was a prisoner of war, well and unwounded.

Tragic news was quick to follow, however:

In last week’s issue it was stated that Mrs [Bessie] Durnford… had received through her daughter-in-law news that her son, Lance Bombardier Ronald Durnford, was a prisoner of war in Jap hands and was unwounded.

On Saturday she received the sorrowful news that he was dead in the following messages, which her daughter-in-law had sent on:

“I deeply regret to inform you a report has been received from the War Office, that [Ronald], who was reported a prisoner of war in Borneo Camp, had died from dysentery. The date of his death is not yet known, but you may rest assured as soon as any further information is received, I will immediately let you know.”

Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer: Friday 30th July 1943

Lance Bombardier Durnford was laid to rest in the Labuan War Cemetery in Malaysia.


Further family tragedy, albeit with a life well-lived, was to follow as, on 6th September 1943, Bessie too died at the age of 86. She was laid to rest alongside Edmund in the family plot. Her obituary confirmed that “She leave a husband, seven daughters, and four sons to mourn her loss. One son and one daughter are in Canada, and one son in Australia, and one daughter and son in London.” [Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer, Friday 17th September 1943]

Bessie had not, in fact, remarried: the husband was, in fact, the one who had died some 25 years before.


CWG: Lance Corporal Thomas Taylor

Lance Corporal Thomas Taylor

Thomas George Taylor was born in the summer of 1886, and was the youngest of five children to George and Sarah Taylor. George was a gamekeeper in Clutton, Somerset, and he and Sarah raised their family in Rudges Cottage opposite the village church.

Thomas’ older brother John found a variety of jobs, from boot finisher to coal miner, but Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps, and, by the 1911 census, was recorded as a butcher’s apprentice.

Storm clouds were brewing across Europe by this point and, when war broke out, Thomas was one of the first to enlist. Sadly, there is little information on his military service, but it is clear that he joined the 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry and was quickly promoted from Private to Lance Corporal.

The only other documentary evidence for Thomas is his entry in the Army Register of Personal Effects. This confirms that he was admitted to the Isolation Hospital in Aldershot, suffering from meningitis. Lance Corporal Taylor passed away from the condition on 16th April 1915, aged just 29 years old.

Brought back to Somerset for burial, Thomas George Taylor was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Augustine’s Church, across the road from his family home in Clutton.


CWG: Colour Serjeant Major Frederick Davis

Colour Serjeant Major Frederick Davis

Frederick Davis was born in Street, near Glastonbury, in February 1876. One of four children, his parents were Frank and Ann. Frank was an agricultural labourer, while Ann worked as a shoe binder in the local Clark’s Factory.

By the 1891 census, Frederick had left school, and had also left home, boarding with a farmer in nearby Walton, where he also worked as a labourer on the farm. Ten years later, he was living with his paternal grandmother and his older brother in the village, with both brothers working as labourers.

During this time, it seems that Frederick had his sights on bigger and better things. Full details are not available, although it appears that he enlisted in the Army and served in India and South Africa between at least 1897 and 1902. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1902 for his actions, although again little information around this survives.

Confirmation of his service overseas at this time appears on Frederick’s later military service records as, in January 1909, he again enlisted in the army. Frederick’s 1909 records show that his next of kin was his wife, Mrs AL Davis, although no marriage documents are apparent. He is also recorded as living in Castle Cary, just to the south of Glastonbury.

This time he was assigned to the 4th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, serving for five years on home soil. During this time, he rose through the ranks from Private to Lance Corporal to Corporal to Sergeant.

When war was declared, the 4th Battalion was sent out to India. Sergeant Davis spent the next eighteen months there, before being moved to the Persian Gulf. He was obviously well thought of as, with the move came a further promotion, this time to Company Sergeant Major.

In June 1917, Frederick returned to England from overseas, and, at the end of his term of service two months later, he was demobbed. He returned home to Somerset, but, within a couple of months, on 2nd October 1917, he passed away. The cause of his death is not recorded, but he was 42 years of age.

Frederick Davis was laid to rest in the peaceful surrounds of the Castle Cary Cemetery.


CWG: Serjeant Charles Flower

Serjeant Charles Flower

Charles Franklin Flower was born in Walcot, Bath, at the end of 1879. The middle of five children, his parents were stonemason John Flower and his dressmaker wife, Elizabeth.

John died when his son was only eleven years old, and Elizabeth passed away just two years later, leaving Charles an orphan at just 13 years of age.

He disappears off the radar for a time, only reappearing again when, in the summer of 1895, he enlisted in the 13th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Charles’ service records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.69m) tall, weighed 121lbs (55kg) and had grey eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion. He was also noted as having a tattooed ring on his left ring finger.

After eighteen months on home soil, Private Flower was sent out to the East Indies, where, apart from a short stint back in England, he spent the next twelve years. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1898, but though his own volition, reverted to the rank of Private seven months later. Charles was destined for bigger things, though, and was again promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1900. Over the next few years, he received further promotions – to Corporal in September 1905 and Lance Serjeant eighteen months later.

In the autumn of 1908, Charles returned to home soil, but his military service continued. On 12th April 1909, he married Elizabeth Ann Wills, a gamekeeper’s daughter from Cannington, Somerset. They set up home in Portland, Dorset, where Charles was based, and went on to have a son, Herbert, a year after they married.

By 1910, Charles had again been promoted, and was now a Serjeant. In the next couple of years, the family moved from the Dorset coast to the Somerset town of Frome. Serjeant Flower’s service continued, but he remained on home soil, even when war broke out.

All was not well with Charles’ health, however, and by the summer of 1915, he was admitted to hospital. He was thin and anaemic, with an enlarged liver and an ‘enormously swollen’ spleen. This was discovered to be a malignant growth, and Serjeant Flower was discharged from military service on medical grounds on 20th December 1915. He had been in the Somerset Light Infantry for more than two decades.

Charles Franklin Flower was not to recover from his illness. He passed away at home on 27th February 1916, at the age of just 37 years old. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in Frome.


Serjeant Charles Flower
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Sergeant Archibald Mills

Sergeant Archibald Mills

Archibald Henry Mills was born in the summer of 1895, the oldest of six children to John and Edith. John was a commercial traveller, selling veterinary wares around the country; he was born in Derby, Edith was from Leicester and, for the for the first seven years of their married life they lived in Edith’s home town – this is where Archibald was born. By the turn of the century, however, they had relocated to Somerset, and set up home in Weston-super-Mare.

When he left school, Archibald found work as an errand boy for a local tailor, but change was on the horizon. By the summer of 1914, he had based himself in Nottingham – the reason is lost to time – and this is where he was when he volunteered for military service.

Archibald enlisted as a Private in the Notts and Derby Regiment – the Sherwood Foresters – and was assigned to the 7th Battalion. He was sent to France as part of the 46th Division and, over the next couple of years, he evidently served his regiment well.

In August 1915, Private Mills was promoted to Lance Corporal; three months later he was again promoted, to Corporal. By May the following year, he received another rise, this time to Serjeant. These promotions were against the backdrop of some fierce fighting – the Sherwood Foresters were involved at Hooge, Hohenzollern and Gommecourt, and were briefly sent to Egypt.

At some point during the summer of 1916 – possible at Gommecourt – Archibald was injured, and medically evacuated to the No.2 Western General Hospital in Manchester. Sadly, however, his wounds were to prove too much: Serjeant Mills passed away on the night of 30th September 1916. He was just 21 years old.

The body of Archibald Henry Mills was brought back to Somerset; he was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery of his adopted home town of Weston-super-Mare.


CWG: Corporal Bruce Chapple

Corporal Bruce Chapple

Bruce Chapple was born in the autumn of 1893, the youngest of four children to Frederick and Elizabeth Chapple. Frederick was born in Newton Abbot and ran the managed a public house in the town (now the Locomotive Inn), although the 1901 census also listed him as a tobacco pipe manufacturer.

According to the next census – in 1911 – Bruce had taken over the pipe making, which meant that Frederick was devoting his time to being a publican. By this time, Bruce had another interest; military service. He had volunteered for the Devonshire Regiment in October 1909 and, over the next few years, the 5ft 3.5ins (1.61m) tall teenager received training in and around the county.

When war broke out in 1914, Private Chapple was formally enrolled and, as part of the 1st/5th Battalion, he set out for India that October. Initially based in Multan – in what is now Pakistan – he subsequently moved on to Lahore.

Bruce spent a total of two-and-a-half years in India, receiving a promotion to Lance Corporal in the process. In March 1917, his battalion transferred to Egypt, and the now Corporal Chapple went with them.

On 23rd November, Bruce was wounded in action, receiving a gun shot wound to his left thigh; he was not medically repatriated for treatment, but appears to have recovered from his injury and remained in Egypt until July 1918.

Back home in England, Corporal Chapple remained in the army for a further couple of months, before he was discharged as being no longer medically fit for service in September. Sadly, the cause for his discharge is lost to time.

It is at this point that Bruce’s trail goes cold. The next available record is of his death, on 16th November 1919; he was 26 years old.

Bruce Chapple was laid to rest in the family plot in Newton Abbot Cemetery.


CWG: Corporal Cyril Allen

Corporal Cyril Allen

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.


Corporal Cyril Allen (from ancestry.co.uk)

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.

(from ancestry.co.uk)

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.


CWG: Lance Corporal Henry Preece

Lance Corporal Henry Preece

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.


Lance Corporal Henry Preece
(from britishnewspaperarchive.com)

CWG: Stoker 1st Class Patrick Tynan

Stoker 1st Class Patrick Tynan

Patrick Tynan was born in Roscrea, Southern Ireland, on 9th June 1893. He was the eldest of four children to John and Anne Tynan, but sadly, there is no further information available for his early years.

Patrick’s story really picks up on 14th December 1915, when he joined the Royal Engineers as a Private. His service record states that he was living in Bangor, Gwynedd, and that he was a stall keeper at a fairground – a subsequent document noted his trade as a showman. He was noted to be 5ft 8ins (1.72m) tall, weighed 151lbs (68.5kg), and had numerous scars on his back.

Private Tynan did not stay in the UK for long. Assigned the new role of Driver, he was attached to the GHQ Signal Company and sailed from Devonport on 30th June 1916, bound for Mesopotamia. Arriving in Margil – the port connected to Basra – he was based here for more than a year, before moving north to Baghdad.

By this time, Patrick had risen to the rank of Lance Corporal, and was obviously a trustworthy member of the company. Towards the end of 1917, he had again been promoted, this time to Corporal.

During his time in modern day Iraq, Patrick was admitted to hospital a handful of times; there is little information on the conditions he suffered, but none appear to have been life threatening, as they were only for short periods. It’s also interesting to find that his service records confirm a month’s leave in May 1918, spent in India.

When the war came to a close, Corporal Tynan was still in the Middle East. Ready to be demobbed, his company moved to India and boarded the SS Chupra in Calcutta on 26th February 1919, bound for home.

Back in the UK, however, Patrick was not ready to give up the formal military life. Having returned to Gillingham in Kent, where the Royal Engineers were based, he initially found work as a tram conductor, but soon signed up for a five year term with the Royal Navy as a stoker.

He was based on HMS Pembroke II, the shore-based establishment at Chatham Dockyard, but sadly, his time in the navy was to be a short one. Admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in the town with pneumonia, he passed away form the condition on 1st October 1919. He was just 26 years old.

Patrick Tynan was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham. He had a short but full life, something his modest gravestone doesn’t begin to hint at.


CWG: Sergeant Herbert Rendell

Sergeant Herbert Rendell

Herbert George Rendell was born in the summer of 1886, the oldest of six children to George and Catherine Rendell. George was a twine maker from West Coker, near Yeovil in Somerset, and it was in this village that he and Catherine raised their young family.

While he initially found work as a labourer when he left school, the lure of a better life and career proved too much for Herbert and, in June 1905, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. He spent three years spent on home soil, working hard and earning a Good Conduct medal for his service. During his tour of duty, he contracted pneumonia, spending five weeks in hospital in Chatham, Kent, over Christmas 1905, but fully recovering.

In September 1908, Herbert was sent to Singapore for a three-year tour of duty with the 21st Company. His body was not accustomed to the different environment, and he was hospitalised three times for malaria and myalgia, as well as two bouts of gonorrhoea in 1908 and 1910.

In December 1911, Sapper Rendell returned home, where he served for a further three years before war broke out in the summer of 1914. Having been promoted to Lance Corporal, and after a short bout in hospital following a reaction to his cowpox vaccination, he was sent to Egypt.

Assigned to the 359th Water Company, he would have been charged with constructing and maintaining the supply pipes to and from the Front Line and for his work was soon promoted to Corporal.

In the spring of 1918, the now Sergeant Rendell was transferred to the 357th Water Company, and found himself in Palestine, where he stayed until the end of the war. He came home on leave in April 1919, and it was here that, once again, he contracted pneumonia.

Sadly, Sergeant Rendell was not to recover from the lung condition for a second time; he passed away at his parents’ home on 9th April 1919, at the age of 32 years old.

Herbert George Rendell was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery, not far from the village where he was born.