Tag Archives: London Regiment

CWG: Rifleman Edward Drewett

Rifleman Edward Drewett

Edward Phillips Drewett was born on 22nd September 1893 in the Somerset town of Castle Cary. He was one of four children to Richard and Martha Drewett; his mother had been widowed before marrying Richard, and had a child from that marriage, Edward’s half-sister.

Richard was a solicitor’s clerk, but when he left school Edward found employment as a grocer’s assistant. It was this that he was doing when war broke out in 1914 and, in November 1915, he joined up to do his bit for King and Country.

Edward joined the 17th Battalion of the London Regiment as a Rifleman: his service records show that he stood 5ft 7.5ins (1.71m) tall, weighed in at 9st (57.2kg) and was of good physical development.

Rifleman Drewett ended up spending three-and-a-half years in the army, and travelled a lot. After nine months on home soil, he was sent to France, Salonika, Malta and Egypt, spending between four and nine months in each place. By July 1918, he was back in France, and by Christmas that year was on home soil again.

By this point, Rifleman Drewett was unwell, and suffering from nephritis – inflamed kidneys. The condition was severe enough for him to be stood down from the army, and he was formally discharged from military service on 31st March 1919, while admitted to the Bath War Hospital.

At this point, Edward’s trail goes cold. He passed away on 28th August 1919 and, while the cause is unclear, it seems likely to have been kidney-related. He was just 25 years of age.

Edward Phillips Drewett was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home town, Castle Cary.

CWG: Private John Lake

Private John Lake

John Walker Lake was born in Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the spring of 1892, the only child of estate manager and auctioneer Percy Lake and his wife Elizabeth.

John’s mother passed away in 1900, when he was only eight years old, and details of his early life are hard to come by. However, by the time of the 1911 census, he had left school and enrolled in a mining college in Guston, near Dover, Kent.

When war broke out, John was quick to enlist. He joined the London Regiment on 18th September 1914, and was assigned to the 2nd/23rd Battalion. His service records show that he stood 5ft 8ins (1.72m) tall, had light hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.

Private Lake was not to remain in the army for long. Within weeks of joining, he contracted tuberculosis and, on 22nd February 1915, after just 158 days, he was discharged from service as being no longer medically fit for duty.

At this point, John’s trail goes cold. He initially returned to live with his father in Eastbourne. By the autumn of 1918, however, he was in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, probably for health reasons.

The tuberculosis got the better of John Walker Lake, however; he passed away on 20th October 1918, at the age of 26 years old. He was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare.

CWG: Rifleman Horace Thompson

Rifleman Horace Thompso

Horace Douglas Thompson was born in Camberwell, East London on 23rd April 1898. He was the oldest of four children – and the only boy – to Horace and Elizabeth Thompson. Horace Sr was a grocer’s packer, originally from the village of Gissing in Norfolk.

Details of Horace Jr’s early life are a little sketchy, but it seems that by some point after the 1911 census, both of his parents had died, and he was fostered by his aunt and uncle – Charlotte and Robert Thompson – who lives in Leytonstone. By this point, he was working as a doctor’s errand boy.

When war broke out, Horace was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the 6th Battalion of the London Regiment – also known as the City of London Rifles – towards the end of 1916. It is unclear whether Rifleman Thompson saw any action overseas, but in April 1917 he was admitted to the Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital in Newton Abbot, Devon, suffering from acute gastritis, or appendicitis.

Sadly, Rifleman Horace Douglas Thompson was to succumb to the condition – he passed away at the hospital on 16th April 1917. He was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery; he was days short of his 19th birthday.

CWG: Private Bertram Coates

Private Bertram Coates

Bertram Noel Coates was born in the sleepy Somerset village of Walton-in-Gordano in the spring of 1890. He was the middle of three children to Herbert and Florence Coates. Herbert was a solicitor, and clerical work seemed to have been in the Coates blood.

While he did not follow in his father’s exact footsteps, by the time of the 1911 census, Bertram had found work as a bank clerk, and was boarding with his employer, James Barry, in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire.

Bertram was obviously made very welcome in Chipping Sodbury, as, on 27th May 1914, he married his employer’s daughter, Mary Barry. The couple would go on to have a daughter – Eileen – who was born in February 1916.

By the time of his wedding, Bertram had moved to London, and was working as a bank clerk in South Woodford, so was obviously showing an ambitious streak.

War was beckoning, however, and in December 1915, Bertram enlisted. Placed in the Army Reserve, he was finally mobilised in January 1917, and assigned to the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment, which was also known as the Artists Rifles.

Tragically, Private Coates’ military service was to be a short one. While training, he contracted measles, which turned septic with additional complications. He sadly passed away on 31st March 1917, less than three months after being mobilised. He was just 27 years old.

Bertram Noel Coates was brought back to Somerset. He lies at peace in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Walton Clevedon, near his parents’ home in Somerset.

CWG: Private Percy Westcott

Private Percy Westcott

Percy George Westcott was born at the end of 1877, the eldest of six children to George and Elizabeth Wescott. George was a police constable, and brought the family up in the Somerset town of Frome.

After leaving school, Percy sought a trade and, by 1901, was living in the East End of London, working as a wheelwright, work he continued with until the start of the war.

In November 1911, Percy married Annie Maria Meineke, a widow with a young son. The couple set up home in Clapton, East London.

War was on the horizon, however, and Percy was keen to enlist. He volunteered for the Army Service Corps at the beginning of June 1915. His application was turned down, however, and the reason for his discharge given was “Not being likely to become an efficient soldier”.

Percy appears to have been undeterred, however, and by September 1915 had enlisted successfully. He joined the London Regiment as a Private, but this is as much as is documented about his military service.

Private Westcott’s next appearance in records is on the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects. This confirms that he had served in the 3rd/10th Battalion, which was a territorial force. The document also identifies that he passed away on 20th March 1916, at the age of 38.

While a cause of death is not noted, the location given – the London Asylum, Colney Hatch – is perhaps more significant. As the name suggests, this was a mental health facility; which gives an indication as to the Private Westcott’s state at the time of his passing.

While Percy’s widow was still living in London, his body was taken back to Somerset to be laid to rest. Percy George Westcott is buried in St James’ Cemetery in Taunton, where his parents lived.

CWG: Private Herbert Spiller

Private Herbert Spiller

Herbert George Spiller was born in 1881, the second of four children to George and Emily Spiller. George was a timber merchant and ironmonger, born in Taunton, Somerset, who raised his family in his home town.

When Herbert left school, he found work as a clerk in a solicitor’s office, and this was the trade he followed, eventually becoming a solicitor in his own right.

In March 1907, he married Winifred Lewis, an outfitter’s daughter, and the couple soon emigrated, arriving in Perth, Australia, later that year. They had two children in Australia; a son, who sadly passed as a babe in arms, and a daughter. Within three years, however, the Spillers were back living in England again and went on to have four further children, three of whom survived infancy.

War had arrived, and Herbert enlisted on 11th December 1915, but was initially placed as a reserve. He was finally called to do his duty for King and country on 6th September 1917 and joined the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment. After initial training, Private Spiller was sent out to the Front, arriving in France in April 1918.

Herbert was back on home soil after three months, suffering from albuminaria (a disease of the kidneys) and served in territorial depots until he was demobbed in December 1918.

At this point, Herbert disappears from the records. It seems likely that his illness was the cause of his passing, but this cannot be confirmed. Either way, Herbert George Spiller died on 7th May 1920, at the age of 39 years old. He lies at rest in the St James Cemetery in his home town of Taunton, Somerset.

Please note: While Private Spiller was afforded a Commonwealth War Grave, his exact burial location is not identifiable. The image at the top of this post, therefore, is of the other family graves in the cemetery.

Herbert Spiller (from findagrave.com)

CWG: Private William Baber

Private William Baber

William Herbert Baber was born in May 1895, the oldest of six children to Henry and Alma Baber. By the time of William’s birth, Henry was an insurance agent for the Prudential insurance company and brought his family up in the Somerset village of Yatton. William’s father had been widowed early on, and so, in addition to his five younger siblings, he also had an older half-brother, also called Henry.

By the time of the 1911 census, William was working as a clerk in a coal office, and the family were living in a five room house not far from the village centre.

Little remains documented about William’s military service. He enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry, but transferred to the 24th Battalion of the London Regiment. He was involved in the Battle of High Wood – part of the Somme offensive – and was wounded during the skirmish.

Evacuated back to home soil, Private Baber was treated in one of the military hospitals in Cardiff. Sadly, he was to succumb to his wounds, and passed away on 16th October 1916. He was just 21 years old.

William Herbert Baber lies at rest in the family grave in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Yatton.

William’s father Henry was also called up for war duty. You can read more about his story here.

CWG: Rifleman Walter Bromley

Rifleman Walter Bromley

Walter Vaine Bromley was born in March 1877, one of seven children to Frederick and Jane Bromley. Frederick was a gardener, and the family lived in Maidstone, Kent. Sadly Jane died when Walter was only two years old; while the cause of her death is not noted, she passed away in the Barming Lunatic Asylum in Kent.

Things must have been tough for Frederick; his maternal aunt, Sarah, came to live with the family to help raise his children, but further support seems to have been needed and, by the time of the 1891 census, Walter was a student at the Kent County Industrial School, which was, in effect, a boys home, near Ashford.

By the end of that year, having left school, he enlisted in the army, joining the Royal West Kent Regiment. He served most of his twelve years’ enrolment in India, although he suffered numerous hospital admissions for dysentery, ague and orchitis (a swelling of the testicles, often brought about by a sexually transmitted bacterial infection), amongst other ailments.

On being demobbed, Walter became a postman; he moved to Gillingham, and was given a round serving the Eastcourt area of the town. A year later, he married Rose Brenchley, and the couple went on to have four children; Ada, Violet, Frederick and Hilda.

Hostilities began, and, in July 1915, Walter enlisted in the 8th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Post Office Rifles). Rifleman Bromley served as part of the Territorial Force for his first year, before being sent to France in August 1916.

His time there was cut short, however, as he received a gunshot wound in the left ankle. William was repatriated to England for treatment, and was eventually medically discharged from the army on 22nd August 1917.

Surprisingly, it seems not to have been the ankle wound that led to Rifleman Bromley’s passing, however. His pension records, instead, give his cause of death as a goitre contracted whilst on active service. Either way, he passed on 9th July 1918, at the age of 41 years old.

Walter Vaine Bromley lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in his adopted home town of Gillingham in Kent.

Walter Bromley (from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Flight Lieutenant Ronald Knight

Flight Lieutenant Ronald Knight

Ronald Victor Knight was born in March 1894, the youngest of two children – both sons – to John Knight, an Ironmonger from London, and his Swiss wife, Marie.

Ronald was well educated – being taught at Wells and Bedford Grammar Schools in the UK and Neuchatel in Switzerland, not far from where his mother was born. After studying at Bristol University, he went to work at Guys Hospital in London, training as a dental student.

When war broke out, he volunteered at once, being enlisted in the 8th Battalion London Regiment. Lieutenant Knight went with his regiment to France, and was involved in the Battle of Festubert and the fighting at Loos.

Returning home towards the end of 1915, Ronald married Gwendoline Dawkes, in a ceremony overseen by the Bishop of Bath & Wells.

Rather than returning to the front line, Lieutenant Knight accepted a commission to lead a section of the London Cyclist Corps, a position he held for a year or do. While in this service, Ronald and Gwendoline had their one and only child, a little girl they called Beryl.

In 1916, Ronald accepted a further move to the Royal Naval Air Service, becoming involved in flying as a Flight Lieutenant. It was while he was based at RNAS Cranwell that he was involved in the accident that led to his death.

An inquest was held into the incident, and evidence was taken.

Air Mechanic Charles Deboo [said] that the machine had been recently inspected, and that it was alright. He did not see the deceased flying, but saw the machine come down, nose first, in corkscrew fashion. He saw it at a height of 400ft. He went to the machine after it had fallen and found the officer was dead. The machine struck the ground and smashed up, but he could not say how the accident happened.

Charles Barrett, air mechanic, said he saw the accident. The deceased seemed as if he was going to turn towards the wind to land, and, as he turned, he banked, but he never righted himself. He nose-dived and spun round to the earth. He thought he lost control as he was turning, or the wind might have caught him. The machine was smashed, except for the tail.

The jury returned a verdict that deceased accidentally met his death while flying.

Retford and Workshop Herald and North Notts Advertiser: Tuesday 20th March 1917.

Flight Lieutenant Knight died in an aeroplane crash on 12th March 1917. He was 22 years old.

Ronald Victor Knight lies at rest in Wells Cemetery, Somerset.

Sadly, Ronald’s daughter, Beryl, died in the spring of 1923, when she was only 7 years old. She is buried with her father.

Gwendoline went on to marry Henri Booth in months after the death of her daughter. The couple went on to have two children, Elizabeth and William. She requested that her late husband’s war medals be given to his father, John.