Tag Archives: mystery

CWG: Private Edgar Yea

Private Edgar Yea

Edgar Thomas Yea was born on 23rd February 1898, the youngest of four children to Enoch and Sarah Yea. Enoch was road contractor from Devon, and it was in Highweek, near Newton Abbot, that he and Sarah raised their young family.

There is little documented on young Edgar’s life: he enlisted in the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry not long after was war declared in August 1914. He served on home soil, and was medically discharged from service after just 241 days. There is no confirmation on the cause of his removal from the army, but Private Yea’s last day of service was 11th June 1915.

At this point, Edgar’s trail goes cold again. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away at home on 6th February 1919, just a couple of weeks shy of his 21st birthday. The cause of his passing is lost to time.

Edgar Thomas Yea was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in his home town of Highweek, Devon.


CWG: Sapper Percy Hunt

Sapper Percy Hunt

Percy Rendall Hunt was born on 25th May 1893, one of five children to Walter and Mary. Walter was a carpenter for the railway, and had been born in Newton Abbot, Devon, where he and Mary raised their young family.

When Percy left school, he found labouring work, but soon followed his father into carpentry. He met and married a woman called Ellen; the couple married, and went on to have two children. In his spare time, he volunteered for the Devonshire Royal Engineers and, when war broke out, despite now working in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, this was the regiment he joined.

Sapper Hunt enlisted on 2nd December 1914; his records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall, had good vision and was of fit physical development. In March 1915, Percy was shipped off to Gibraltar, spending the next eighteen months in the territory. After a couple of months back in England, he was sent to France. He spent the next two years split between serving on home soil and with the British Expeditionary Force, before being demobbed in March 1919.

Percy returned to his old job with the railways, but, in December 1919, he found himself in court, charged with assault. Caroline Webber, an elderly married woman, was on the beach in Dawlish one afternoon, looking for shells, when a man approached her. According to a newspaper report:

“…suddenly he made a grab at me, put his hand under my clothes, and caught hold of my left knee. I screamed, and he ran away. ran after him because I was determined to see where he went. He went over to the railway wall, and disappeared under the archway of Dawlish tunnel.”

Western Times: Wednesday 24th September 1919

Mrs Webber went to the police, who returned to the police with her, then traced a trail of footprints back to the tunnel. Percy was questioned, but denied all knowledge of the incident, and of knowing Caroline. A plaster cast was taken of one of the footprints that evening, and a match alleged with his boots. Percy was committed for trial, with bail being allowed.

When the trial started in January 1920, the boots were again presented as evidence. However, on questioning, the policeman admitted than there had been a delay in getting the impression, and that “there were some other impressions in the sand at the time”.

For the defence, a number of witnesses saw Percy at work around the time of the incident, and the timings seemed to prove that he could not have had enough time to get to the beach and back to carry out the alleged assault. Based on this defence, the jury found Percy not guilty, and the case was concluded.

After this incident, Percy’s trail goes cold for a few months. The next record is that confirming his death, on 18th September 1920. The cause of his passing is not evident, but he was 27 years of age.

Percy Rendall Hunt was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Highweek, Newton Abbot, not far from his family home.


CWG: Stoker 1st Class Alexander McLean

Stoker 1st Class Alexander McLean

Alexander McLean was born in the village of Bowling, on the River Clyde near Glasgow, on 7th February 1893. There is little documented on his life, other than that his parents were Duncan and Margaret (Maggie) McLean.

When he left school, he fond work as a caulker at the local docks; war came to Europe, however, and he wanted to play his part. on 11th November 1914, he enlisted in the Cameron Highlanders as a Private. His service records show that he was 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall, weighed 118lbs (53.5kg), had dark brown eyes, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.

Private McLean’s time in the army was a brief one, however, as his entry exam identified him as medically unfit, and that he would not be an effective soldier.

Alexander was not to be deterred, however, and he soon enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. There is little information about his life at sea. At some point he was promoted to Stoker 1st Class, and he was certainly based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, by the summer of 1917.

That was particularly busy time for the base, and temporary accommodation had been put in place at the barrack’s Drill Hall: this is where Alexander found himself billeted.

On the night of the 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Tragically, Stoker 1st Class McLean was amongst those killed. He was just 24 years old.

Alexander McLean’s body was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.


CWG: Driver Lionel Shearn

Driver Lionel Shearn

Lionel Shearn was born in April 1895, one of twelve children to, and the youngest son of, Joseph and Emily Shearn. There were two main industries in Paulton, Somerset, where the Shearn family lived, and, over time, Joseph was employed in both. He began in the boot-making industry – this was his trade when Lionel was born – but, by the time of the 1911 census, he had found work as a coal miner. Lionel, who was sixteen by the time of that document, was also working at the colliery as a carter.

War came to Europe in the summer of 1914, and Lionel was one of the first in the town to enlist. Little documentation remains about his military service, but he joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Driver and, by October was in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Sadly, this is all the information that’s available, as Driver Shearn passed away in a hospital in Portsmouth on 27th October 1914. The cause of his passing is unknown, but there is nothing into the contemporary newspapers to suggest is was anything untoward. He was just 19 years of age.

Lionel Shearn was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the picturesque Paulton Cemetery.


Driver Lionel Shearn
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Gunner William Withers

Gunner William Withers

William John Withers was born in the spring of 1883, in the Somerset town of Midsomer Norton. He was one of six children to William and Rose Withers. William Sr was a coal miner who went on to become a night bailiff, or caretaker, for the colliery. His son, however, sought different things, and, when he left school, he found work as a grocer’s assistant.

In the summer of 1909, William Jr married Florence Robbins, a miner’s daughter from Radstock. The couple went on to have son, Allan, in June 1913 but tragically it appears than Florence either died in childbirth, or shortly afterwards.

In the summer of 1914, war came to Europe; by the end of the following year, William enlisted, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. His service records show that he stood 5ft 8.5ins (1.74m) tall, and weighted 147lbs (66.7kg). By this time he was working as a shop manager and, as a widower with a young son, it seems that, while he volunteered for service, he wasn’t formally mobilised for another year.

Gunner Withers was initially posted at the Citadel Fortress in Plymouth, but soon moved to Halton Park in Buckinghamshire. He spent time there training to be a Signaller, and in April 1918, he succeeded. That summer, he was posted overseas, serving as part of the 461st Siege Battery in France.

In March 1919, Signaller Withers returned to England. Details are a bit sketchy, but it seems that he was posted to Lincolnshire, and while there he fell ill. He was admitted to the Northern General Hospital in Lincoln with peritoneal adhesions; sadly these proved too much for his body to take; he passed away on 9th April 1919, at the age of 36 years old.

William John Withers’ body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in Radstock.


The exact spot of William’s burial is unknown. The grave in the image is of his father, who passed away in 1921. It is likely that William Sr was buried with his son.


CWG: Private Bertie Ball

Private Bertie Ball

Bertie Ball was born in Westcott, Berkshire, in the spring of 1890, the oldest of ten children to John and Matilda Ball. John was from Berkshire, who raised his family in Wantage. He began life as a farm labourer, but, by the time of the 1901 census, he had found other employment, as a groom at a racing stable.

Details of Bertie’s life are scarce. When he left school, he found work as a garden labourer and, when war broke out, he enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps. Private Ball was assigned to the Mechanical Transport Company, but whether he served overseas on on home soil is unknown.

Bertie died on 4th March 1915 from cerebrospinal meningitis. He was just 24 years old. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Midsomer Norton – I can find no Somerset connection, so can only imagine that he passed away in or near the town.


Bertie’s younger brother Percival Ball also served in the First World War. He served with the 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment and fought in Mesopotamia. Sadly he was killed there, dying on 5th April 1916. He was just 17 years of age. He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.


CWG: Guardsman Arthur Baguley

Guardsman Arthur Baguley

Arthur George Baguley was born in the autumn of 1897 in Warwick, and was one of six children to George and Rosa Baguley. George was a journeyman butcher who had moved his family to Frome, Somerset, by the time Arthur was three years old. George died in 1908, leaving Rosa to raise the younger members of her family alone.

Little information about Arthur’s life remains, and the only other documents that can be directly connected to him relate to his passing towards the end of the war. These confirm that he enlisted as a Guardsman in the Coldstream Guards at some point after April 1918.

Based in barracks in Hampshire, Guardsman Baguley was admitted to the Connaught Hospital in Aldershot, suffering from infective endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the heart. Sadly, he succumbed to the illness, passing away on 13th September 1918, aged just 20 years old.

Arthur George Baguley’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church, Midsomer Norton, where his mother was living by that point.


Guardsman Arthur Baguley
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Gunner Sidney Carey

Gunner Sidney Carey

Banfield Sidney Carey – who was also known by his middle name – was born in 1868 in Farmborough, Somerset. His father, Abel, was a wheelwright, and both he and Sidney’s mother, Hannah, came from the village.

Sadly, little of Sidney’s life remains documented. He married Janet Morgan in Blackburn, Lancashire, in the autumn of 1912; they had had a daughter, Dorcas, five years before, and Janet had another daughter, Viola, from a previous relationship.

War came to Europe and Sidney enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery as a Gunner (Wheeler), at some point before February 1918. By that year he was based at the regiment’s cadet school in St John’s Wood, London.

On 30th August Gunner Carey suffered a ruptured aneurysm and, despite being rushed to the nearby Hampstead Military Hospital, he died. He was 49 years old.

Sidney Carey was brought back to Somerset for burial in the family plot. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints’ Church in his home village of Farmborough.


CWG: Private John Peacock

Private John Peacock

John Peacock was born in Ashburton, Devon, in 1883. Details of his life are a little sketchy, but his parents were John and Mary Ann Peacock, and he was one of at least thee children. John Sr was an agricultural labourer, but his son wanted bigger and better things.

By the time of the 1911 census, John Jr had enlisted as a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. No military records exist to confirm when he joined up or where he served. The census recorded him as being a patient in the Royal Naval Hospital in East Stonehouse although, again, there is no record of why he had been admitted.

The story of Private Peacock’s health seems to remain a thread through his life. The next document evident is his Pension Ledger Card. This confirms that he died on 31st May 1917, from what was described as general paralysis, often insane. He was 34 years of age.

John Peacock was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Andrew’s Church in his home village of Ashburton, Devon.


CWG: Private William Moore

Private William Moore

William John Moore was born in October 1893 in the Dorset village of Puncknowle. He was the second of four children to Richard and Elizabeth Moore. Richard was a farm labourer and Elizabeth’s family were all fishermen, but is was agricultural work that William sought out when he left school.

There is little direct information available about William’s life. When war came to Europe, he joined up, enlisting as a Private in the Dorsetshire Regiment at some point before April 1918. He served on home soil, and was based at one of the regiment’s depots on Salisbury Plain.

At some point late in 1918, Private Moore was admitted to the Military Hospital in Tidworth, although the cause for his admission is not known. Tragically, William died in the hospital on 13th October 1918. He was just 25 years of age.

William John Moore was laid to rest in the cemetery in his home village of Puncknole.