Tag Archives: Royal Army Service Corps

CWG: Private Edgar Boyland

Private Edgar Boyland

Edgar Albert Boyland (known as Albert) was born in the summer of 1894, the third of eight children to John and Sarah Boyland. John was a farm labourer from Chaffcombe in Somerset, but is was in nearby Chard that the family were born and raised.

Albert followed in his father’s footsteps and, when he finished school, he found work on a local farm. The 1911 census recorded him boarding with the Boait family in Winsham, to the south east of Chard. He was living there along with another boarder, a baker called Fred Baker, and his influence seems to have paid off, as, by the time war was declared in 1914, baking was the trade that he had taken up.

With the conflict declared, Albert was called upon to play his part. in April 1915, he enlisted in the Army Service Corps. His records show that he stood 5ft 5.5ins (1.66m) tall and he gave his trade as baker. This was the trade that served him well, as is it the one for which he was employed.

Private Boyland was sent to France within a few weeks of enlisting. In November 1915, he was sent to Salonika, Greece, and spent the next couple of years in the Eastern Mediterranean providing food for the troops.

In December 1917, Albert returned to England where, within a couple of months, he was medically discharged from active duty. Sadly, there is nothing documented to confirm the condition that led to him leaving the army, but it seems likely to have been an illness of some description.

At this point, Albert’s trail goes cold. He passed away on 19th February 1919; again the cause of his death is lost to time. He was just 24 years of age.

Edgar Albert Boyland was laid to rest in Chard Cemetery, not far from where his family still lived.


Private Arthur Boyland

Two rows back from Private Albert Boyland’s headstone is another Commonwealth War Grave, dedicated to another Boyland. This is from the Second World War, and identifies the resting place of Albert’s cousin.

Arthur James Boyland was born on 21st October 1908, one of nine children to Arthur’s uncle and aunt, Joseph and Julia Boyland. Joseph worked at an iron foundry, but is seems that Arthur was destined for other things. While a lot of his life is lost to time, but the time of the 1939 Register, he was working as a dental mechanic in Chard.

Arthur had married Bessie Hopkins in 1936; the couple went on to have three children.

When the Second World War was declared, Arthur had a role to play; he enlisted as a Private in the Royal Army Dental Corps. Sadly, details of his service are not available; he survived the war, however, and returned to Chard afterwards.

Arthur James Boyland passed away at home on 14th December 1947, at just 39 years of age. He was laid to rest in Chard Cemetery.


CWG: Private Sam Mattocks

Private Sam Mattocks

Samuel Mattocks was born in Combe St Nicholas, Somerset, in 1885, one of six children to farm labourer George Mattocks and his wife, Anna. Sam sought a trade when he left school and soon found work as a butcher.

Documentation relating to Sam’s life is pretty scarce. When war broke out, he stepped forward to play his part, enlisting in the Army Service Corps (presumably because of his profession) by the start of 1916.

Private Mattocks was sent to Hampshire to work at one of the supply depots there. Sadly, this appears not to have been for long as, on 1st April 1916, he passed away at his base in Aldershot. No specific cause of death is evident – his records just note that he died ‘of disease’. He was 31 years old.

The body of Samuel Mattocks was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in his home village.


CWG: Driver W Steer

Driver W Steer

The life of WH Steer is destined to remain lost to time. Details of his first names and date of birth are not obtainable and, other than the fact that his father was called Thomas, there is no other information about his family.

He had enlisted as a Driver in the Army Service Corps by August 1918, but there is no record as to where he served or for how long he did so. All that can be confirmed is that he was based in Warwick after the conflict ended, and this is where died, of causes unknown, on 10th February 1919.

WH Steer was brought to Devon for burial – presumably this is where Thomas and the rest of his family lived – and he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, near Newton Abbot.


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 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: Private Albert Withey

Private Albert Withey

Albert Withey was born in Frome, Somerset in November 1882. One of ten children, his parents were John Withey, a coal dealer, and his wife Elizabeth. John passed away in 1891, Elizabeth eight years later, which led to Albert becoming an orphan while still in his teens.

Information on Albert’s early life is scarce and, indeed, his trail goes cold until 26th September 1915, when he enlisted in the Army Service Corps, as part of the war effort.

Private Withey’s service records give more insight into his life: he was 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall, and had varicose veins on both legs. The document also confirms that he had married local woman Annie Louisa Stent on 2nd January 1912. Both attended Holy Trinity Church, and it is likely that this is where they met. Annie was the daughter of a local house painter, while Albert had become a baker; it is probable that it was this work that led him to be assigned to the ASC.

Within weeks of joining up, Private Withey was in Egypt, and it was here that he worked as part of the Supply Corps for the next four years. Albert remained in North Africa long after the Armistice was signed and, in fact, did not return to England until the August after the war had ended. He was officially demobbed on 30th September 1919.

At this point, Albert’s trail once again goes cold, and the next document relating to him is a short notice in the Somerset Standard, two years later, when, “at Pensions Hospital, Bath, Albert Withey, aged 38 years, [died] after a long and painful illness, patiently borne.[Somerset Standard: Friday 27th May 1921]

Albert Withey was laid to rest in the graveyard of the church in which he was baptised and married, Holy Trinity Church, Frome.


Albert’s widow, Annie, was the sister of Bertie Stent, who had also died after coming home from war. Read his story here.


CWG: Private Frederick Gill

Private Frederick Gill

There are parts of AFG Gill’s that are destined to remain a mystery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission give his parents’ names and address – Edwin and Annie Gill of 15 Old Exeter Street, Chudleigh, Devon. Combined with his service number – M2/200211 – this would suggest that the FG in his name is Frederick George, but the initial A remains stubbornly absent.

Frederick George Gill was born in 1898, in the village of Chudlegh, and was one of seven children. His father – Edwin – was a carrier and haulier in the area, and the family lived in the middle of the village.

When war came to Europe, Frederick was keen to do his bit – he enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps as a Private and was assigned to the Mechanical Transport division.

There is very little information on Private Gill’s military service. He was awarded the Victory and British Medals for his service, but there is nothing to confirm when he enlisted or if he served abroad.

Private Gill survived the war, but was discharged on medical grounds on 18th November 1919 – he had contracted pulmonary tuberculosis during his time in the army, and was not longer fit to serve.

At this point, Frederick’s trail goes cold. While nothing can be confirmed, it would seem that the lung condition got the better of him – on 3rd February 1921 he passed away at home. He was just 22 years of age.

Frederick George Gill was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home village.


CWG: Private Edward Pike

Private Edward Pike

Edward Arthur James Pike was born in Frome, Somerset, in 1888, one of six children to Giles and Annie Pike. Giles was a carter and labourer, and this is something that Edward – who was known by his second name, Arthur – followed his father into.

Arthur later found employment with the local Cooperative Society, and his carting experience led him to work for a Mr Bynoth of Badcox, whose Somerset business later became a well-known local taxi and bus company. On 17th April 1911, Arthur married Ellen Emma Sheppard, a labourer’s daughter from nearby Longbridge Deverill.

War was coming to Europe, and Arthur enlisted when his time came in the autumn of 1917. He joined the Army Service Corps, and was assigned to the 12th Mechanical Transport Company on Salisbury Plain.

While serving, Private Pike quickly contracted rheumatic fever. He was admitted to the Fargo Military Hospital in Larkhill, but succumbed to the condition after three months on 28th March 1918. He was 30 years old.

Brought back to Frome, Edward Arthur James Pike was laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church.



CWG: Deck Hand William Littlewood

Deck Hand William Littlewood

William Alfred Littlewood was born on 19th April 1882, the oldest of four children to Henry and Mary. Henry was a labourer for the gasworks in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and the couple raised their family in the town.

William also found work with the local gasworks, and this is who he was employed by when, on 19th December 1903, he married Evelyn Harriet Youman. The couple set up home near the centre of the town, and went on to have four children.

When war broke out, William was keen to play his part. On 17th August 1914, he enlisted as a Private in the Army Service Corps and, within a couple of week, was in France. He spent six months on the Western Front, before returning to home soil. The reason for this return to England was an inflammation of the middle ear, and the resulting deafness led to his discharge from the army in June 1915.

William was not to be deterred, however, and within a matter of weeks, he had enlisted again, this time volunteering for the Royal Naval Reserve as a Deck Hand. Over the next two years, he served on a number of different ships, each time returning to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

In August 1917, Deck Hand Littlewood disembarked HMS Acteon, and returned to his shore base. The Dockyard was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that William was billeted in temporary accommodation in Chatham Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force bombarded the town, and scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Deck Hand Littlewood was among those killed instantly. He was 35 years of age.

William Alfred Littlewood was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. Tragically, the Navy Death Records state that he was Buried as unidentified in one of the following graves: 516, 522, 642, 735, 935, 937 or 948.


CWG: Lieutenant Basil Scott-Holmes

Lieutenant Basil Scott-Holmes

Basil Scott-Holmes was born on 2nd February 1884 in the Somerset village of Wookey. The oldest of two children, his father was Liverpool-born Thomas Scott-Holmes and his wife, Katherine. When Basil was born, Thomas was the vicar of St Matthew’s Church, Wookey, but by 1901, he had risen to the role of clergyman – and subsequently Chancellor – at Wells Cathedral.

Basil’s pedigree stood him in good stead. Initially educated in Llandaff, South Wales, he subsequently attended Sherborne School in Dorset. Sent up to Cambridge, he studied history at Sidney Sussex College.

After leaving university, Basil spent time in Europe learning German and French. He was then assigned the role of Assistant Commissioner in North Nigeria but, after a year there he was invalided home taking up a teaching role at the Bristol Grammar School in 1912.

In July 1913, Basil married Barbara Willey, a surgeon’s daughter from Reigate, Surrey. The marriage record shows that Basil was registrar for an architectural association by this point; the couple went on to have two children, daughters Annette and Prudence.

When the war broke out, he was obviously keen to do his bit. In September 1914 he enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps, before gaining a commission in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps a couple of months later. In the spring of 1916, Lieutenant Scott-Holmes had been seconded to the Machine Gun Corps, although it is unclear whether he served abroad during any of his time in the army.

On the evening of 24th October 1916, Lieutenant Scott-Holmes was riding in a motorcycle sidecar through central London, on the way back to camp. A local newspaper picked up the story:

…they stopped when going through Wandsworth to re-light the near light, and in the dark a motor omnibus ran into them, and Lieutenant [Scott-Holmes], who was strapped in the side-car, was, with the car, flung across the road. He died as he was being taken to Wandsworth Hospital. At the subsequent inquest, a verdict of “accidental death” was returned.

Central Somerset Gazette: Friday 3rd November 1916

Basil Scott-Holmes was just 32 years old. His body was brought back to Somerset; he was laid to rest in the cemetery at Wells Cathedral.


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Basil Scott-Holmes
(from ancestry.co.uk)