Tag Archives: Private

CWG: Private William Hicks

Private William Hicks

William John Hicks was born in the village of Northlew, Devon, in the spring of 1886 and one of seven children to John and Sophia Hicks. Both of his parents were born in the village, and that was where John found employment as a farm labourer.

By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to the southern side of Dartmoor, and were living in Wolborough, near Newton Abbot. William had left school, and was also employed, working as a grocer’s porter in the town.

In December 1908, William married Maud Alice Wotton, and the couple set up home near the town’s station. They went on to have a son, also called William, who was born the following year. By this point, William had found more secure employment, and was working as a wagoner for a flour mill.

War was approaching Europe, and when the time came, William joined up to play his part. He enlisted in the Army Veterinary Corps, and there is no doubt that his pre-war employment stood him in good stead for the role. There is little information about Private Hicks’ military service, but it is clear that he had joined up by March 1916, and, for some part at least, was based in Hampshire.

Sadly, the other other available information relating to Private Hicks is that confirming his passing. He died, of causes unknown, on 19th September 1916, in Aldershot, where he was billeted. He was 30 years old.

William John Hicks’ body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Woborough.


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: Private Arthur King

Private Arthur King

Arthur Thomas Rendell King was born early in 1896, the oldest of six children to Thomas and Bessie King. Engine driver Thomas had been born in London, but, after marrying his wife the year before Arthur was born, he settled in Highweek near Newton Abbot, Devon.

When he left school, Arthur followed his father in working for Great Western Railways, working as a carriage cleaner at the town’s depot. War was on the horizon, however, and he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment shortly after conflict was declared.

Private King was assigned to the 1st/5th Battalion and sailed for India in October 1914, arriving in Karachi a month later. After nearly three years, his regiment moved again, this time to Egypt, in advance of action in the Middle East.

Involved in the Battle of Nebi Samwil in November 1917, Arthur was badly wounded – and initially recorded as missing, presumed dead. However, he was found, and evacuated to England. Tragically, within hours of being admitted to a hospital on home soil on 31st January 1918, Private King died of his injuries. He had just turned 22 years of age.

Arthur Thomas Rendell King’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the family grave in the graveyard of All Saints Church, Highweek.


Private Arthur King
(from findagrave.com)

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: Private Mark Ford

Private Mark Ford

Mark Ford was born early in 1881 in Wellow, near Peasedown St John in Somerset. He was the youngest of eleven children, and the son of Thomas and Ellen Ford. Thomas was a coal miner, and this was a trade that his seven sons, including Mark, went into.

The 1901 census recorded Mark as boarding in a house in Abertillery, Monmouthshire, learning his trade. Within a few years, however, he was back in Peasedown St John. In the summer of 1910, he married local woman Emily Tucker and the couple set up home in Wellow, where then went on to have four children: George, Phyllis, Hubert and Ethel.

War was coming to Europe and, while records are scarce, it’s possible to build up a picture of the service Mark undertook. He initially enlisted as a Private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and was assigned to the 10th (Labour) Battalion. They were sent to France in June 1916, although it is not possible to confirm if Mark went at the same time.

His battalion became the 158th and 159th Labour Companies in April 1917, and it seems that Private Ford transferred to the former and, at this point, was definitely serving in France. That summer, he was wounded in the hip and head by an exploding shell and was medically evacuated to England for treatment.

Private Ford was admitted to the Military Hospital in York, where he lay injured for some time; long enough, thankfully, for Emily to make the journey to be with him. Sadly, his wounds were to prove too much: he passed away at the hospital on 28th October 1917, at the age of 36 years old.

Mark Ford’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial He was laid to rest in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, in Peasedown St John.


CWG: Private William Small

Private William Small

William Charles Small was born towards the end of 1896 in the Somerset town of Midsomer Norton. He was one of six children to coal hewer William George Small and his wife Margaret.

When he left school, William worked for the Co-op store in nearby Radstock, but when war came, he was keen to play his part. His service records are lost to time, but the local newspaper’s report on his funeral in 1919 sheds light on Private Small’s army career:

…he joined the army in May 1915, then being only 18 years of age. He joined the North Somerset Yeomanry and went to France on active service in September the same year, being sent straight to Belgium. There being a shortage of machine gunners, he was transferred to the [Machine Gun Corps], in the 3rd Cavalry Division.

He fought at Peronne, at Cambrai, Arras and Verdun, and other places. His regiment were commended by its General for their bravery in holding back the Germans. He first had leave after one year and eight months’ service in France, and another in August 1918.

He was in the Third Army which stemmed the German attack when they attempted to break through, and fought night and day till they succeeded in holding the enemy back. He had many narrow escapes while in battle, but came through without a scratch.

He was demobilised in January 1919, and was discharged A1, but the strain of 3 years and 6 months of active service proved too much and his health entirely broke down, and he was not able to follow his employment at all. His case was taken up by the military two months ago, and he was sent to Bath War Hospital, where he never recovered from the sever strain…

Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer: Friday 7th November 1919

Private William Small died in the hospital on 25th October 1919, at the age of just 22 years of age. His body was brought back to Midsomer Norton for burial and he was laid to rest in the family plot there.


Private William Small
(from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

CWG: Private Anthony Mountjoy

Private Anthony Mountjoy

Anthony Mountjoy was born in the Somerset village of Clutton in the spring of 1895. One of eleven children, his parents were William and Sarah. William worked as a hewer in a local coal mine, and this is a job into which Anthony and at least two of his brothers went.

War was coming to Europe and, while there is limited documentation relating to his military service, a newspaper report on his funeral sheds some light into his life.

The funeral took place at Midsomer Norton on Monday afternoon of Private Anthony Mountjoy, 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers, who died at the Bath Pensions Hospital… at the age of 25 years. Private Mountjoy… enlisted in the army on January 22, 1916, and went to France in July 1917. He was gassed and wounded at Passchendaele in March 1918, and arriving in England was take to the Tusehill Military Hospital, Carlisle in June. He was transferred to Bristol in April, 1919, and from there to Bath Pensions Hospital in November of the same year. He never recovered from the effects of active service.

Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer: Friday 16th July 1920

Private Anthony Mountjoy died on 7th July 1920. He was laid to rest in the family grave in the graveyard of St John the Baptists Church in Midsomer Norton.


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: 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: Private Lionel Gibbons

Private Lionel Gibbons

Lionel Millard Gibbons was born in the spring of 1898 and was one of four children. His father, Benjamin, was a seed merchant from Camerton, Somerset, while his mother, Mary, had been born in Taunton, Devon. The family lived at Sheep House Farm in Camerton, where Benjamin employed a couple of servants to help manage things.

When war broke, out, Lionel was keen to ay his part. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private. While there are no dates to confirm when and where Lionel served, the regiment itself was involved at the Somme in 1916 and Ypres the following year.

Private Gibbons was badly wounded by shrapnel in the autumn of 1917, and returned to England to recover. Once he had, he was transferred to the 449th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps and employed on farm work in Egford, near Frome.

It was while he was there that Private Gibbons contracted influenza and pneumonia; he passed at the farm on 28th October 1918, at the age of just 20 years old.

Lionel Millard Gibbons’ body was brought back to Camerton for burial. He lies at rest in the family grave in the ground of St Peter’s Church there.