Tag Archives: Major

CWG: Major Stafford Douglas

Major Stafford Douglas

Stafford Edmund Douglas was born on 4th January 1863, the second of four children to Stephen and Mary Douglas. Stafford came from a military family, his father having been a Captain in the Royal Navy. This led to a lot of travelling and, having been born in Donaghadee, County Down, he then moved to South Wales.

By the 1880s, when Stephen and Mary had set up home in Portsmouth, Stafford has started to carve out a career for himself, and was a Lieutenant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, based at Edinburgh Castle.

Over the coming years, Lieutenant Douglas, who stood 5ft 8.5ins (1.74m) tall and also spoke French, travelled the world, serving in South Africa, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Hong Kong. By 1894 he had made Captain, and he finally retired in 1903, after nineteen years’ service.

On 29th April that year, at the age of 40, Stafford married Mary Louisa Harris. She was the daughter of an army colonel, and the couple wed in St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London. The couple set up home in Exeter, Devon, and went on to have two children – Violet and Stafford Jr.

At this point, Stafford’s trail goes cold. When war broke out in 1914, he was called back into duty, working as a Railway Transport Officer in Norwich. He continued in this role until 1919, before being stood down and returning home.

Stafford Edmund Douglas passed away on 15th February 1920, at the age of 57 years old, although no cause of death is immediately apparent. He was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, presumably where his family were, by this time, residing.


CWG: Major Stanley Payne

Major Stanley Payne

Stanley James Payne was born towards the end of 1882, one of eleven children to Stephen and Elizabeth Payne. Stephen was a leather salesman from Essex, who had moved his family to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset in around 1880.

Stanley seems to have been drawn in to a military life from an early age. In January 1900, he enlisted as a Private in the Somerset Light Infantry, and the 1901 census listed him as living at the Raglan Barracks in Devonport, near Plymouth.

Military service took Private Payne to India, where he served for six years. His success and ambition were clear; in 1906 he was promoted to first to Corporal and then to Sergeant. By 1911 – and now back in England – as a Lance Sergeant, Stanley was working as a military clerk at the Royal Horse Artillery Barracks in Dorchester, although he was still attached to the Somerset Light Infantry.

Stanley’s ambition and sense of adventure continued; by July 1912 he had made the transfer over to the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps, as a Sergeant.

It was while he was based in Dorchester that he met Winifred Bell. She was the daughter of a local council worker, and the couple married in the town in September 1912. Stanley and Winifred went on to have a daughter, Doris, who was born in July 1914.

War had arrived in Europe, and on 7th October, the now Warrant Officer Payne was shipped to France. During his nine months on the Western Front, he was mentioned in despatches and received the Croix de Guerre for his gallantry. The local newspaper also reported that he:

…had also the honour of being presented to the King on the occasion of His Majesty’s last visit to the front, and at a home station had also been presented to Queen Mary.

Western Daily Press: Saturday 8th March 1919

Returning to England on 1st June 1915, he was again promoted to Lieutenant and Quartermaster, although here his military records dry up. By this time, he had been in the armed forces for more than fifteen years, but his military records seem to confirm this as the last day of his service.

The next record for Stanley confirms his passing. Admitted to the Central Air Force Hospital in Hampstead with a combination of influenza and pneumonia, he died on 3rd March 1919. He was just 36 years of age.

Brought back to Weston-super-Mare, where his now widowed father was still living, Stanley James Payne was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in his home town.


Stanley’s gravestone gives his rank as Major. While there is no documented evidence of any additional promotions after June 1915, the rank is the equivalent of Quartermaster in the Army Reserve. It seems likely, therefore, that the end date of his military service marked the start of his time in the reserves.


CWG: Major Cecil Beresford

Major Cecil Beresford

Cecil William Beresford was born in June 1875, the oldest of five children. He shared the same first name as his father, so became known as William. Cecil Sr was a barrister in London and he and his wife, Caroline, brought the family up in Kingsbury, London.

Things certainly went well for the Beresford family. By 1901, Cecil was a county judge, and had relocated the family to Devon. William, by this time, was training to be a barrister, and lived with his parents, siblings and four servants in Weare Hall, overlooking the village of Weare Giffard, near Bideford.

From this point on, information about William is a bit sketchy. He does not appear on the 1911 census – by this time Cecil and Caroline had moved to Weston-super-Mare, where Cecil died a year later. It is likely that William had enlisted in the army by this point, and was posted overseas.

William’s military records are not available, but when war broke out in 1914, he joined the Royal Defence Corps and, through his service, had attained the rank of Major.

In October 1917, a number of the local newspapers ran this brief report:

The death has occurred in a military hospital at Weymouth of Major Cecil William Beresford (RDC), eldest son of his Honour, the late Judge Beresford and Mrs Beresford, late of Wear Gifford Hall, and subsequently of Penquarry, Weston-super-Mare. He was 42 years old.

Western Times: 17th October 1917

Sadly, this is all that remains to document Major Beresford’s passing. There is nothing to confirm whether he had been wounded or had fallen ill, and there are no newspaper reports around his funeral.

Cecil William Beresford was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in his mother’s adopted home town of Weston-super-Mare.