Tag Archives: Royal Defence Corps

CWG: Private Edmund Bevan

Private Edmund Bevan

Edmund Thomas Bevan was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in November 1867, the son of blacksmith George Bevan and his wife, Mary Ann.

Unfortunately, little documentation remains on Edmund’s early life; after his baptism record, the next evidence for him comes in the form of his military service record, twenty years later.

Looking for a life of adventure, Edmund gave up his labouring job and joined the Somerset Light Infantry. His enlistment papers confirm the date – 12th May 1887 – and showed that he stood at 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall and weighed in at 120lbs (54.4kg). The papers also note that had dark brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. He also had a scar above his right eye.

Private Bevan joined up for twelve years’ service. He spent his first four years at bases in Essex and Hampshire, before being sent to Gibraltar in November 1891. He returned home after two years, and spent his remaining time in the army in his home county, Somerset. Noted that he had shown a very good character, he was discharged to the reserve brigade on 11th May 1899 in Taunton.

Sadly – tantalisingly – Edmund’s trail goes cold again at this point. When hostilities were declared in August 1914, it seems likely that he was brought out of reserve, but given his age at this point – he was 46 – he was assigned to the territorial force. As a Private in the 125th Coy of the Royal Defence Corps, he would have had civil protection in the London area, although again, specific details are not known.

The next confirmation of Private Bevan’s life is his gravestone. This confirms that he passed away 19th July 1917, at the age of 49. While no cause of death is evident, his pension record sheds a little more light onto his life in the early years of the twentieth century.

Edmund had married a woman called Martha, and the couple had gone on to have a child. Martha passed away in September 1913 and, according to the pension record, Edmund passed guardianship on to his brother Henry.

Edmund Thomas Bevan was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in his home town of Weston-super-Mare.

CWG: Private Bertie Bridger

Private Bertie Bridger

Bertie Charles Bridger was born in the summer of 1876, one of nine children to William and Anne. William was a carman for the railway, and the family lived close to the central station in Worthing.

When Bertie left school, he followed in his father’s trade and, by the time of the 1901 census, was working as a groom and carman alongside his father and older brother, Arthur.

Bertie came to the notice of the local court when, in February 1900 he was called up to the Petty Sessions. He was fined for ‘cruelly ill-treating a horse by working it into an unfit state’ [Sussex Agricultural Express: Friday 9th February 1900], and ordered to pay a total of 18 shillings.

In the spring of 1904, Bertie married Ethel Gray, a carpenter’s daughter from Essex, who had found employment as a parlour maid for a Worthing solicitor. The couple would go on to have two children, Bertie Jr, who as born in 1905, and Leonard, born seven years later.

By the time of the 1911 census, the young Bridger family were living near the main railway station in a two-up, two-down property, where Bertie Sr was still plying his trade as a carman at the station.

War was coming, however, and in the summer of 1915, Bertie enlisted in the Royal Defence Corps. He was assigned as a Private to the 452nd Protection Company and, while his exact duties remain unclear, it is likely that he would have been involved with horses at some level, given his experience.

Private Bridger’s service appears to have mainly been spent on home soil, although, towards the end of the conflict he was sent to Ireland. It was while he was there, that he came down with influenza, which then turned into pneumonia. He was admitted to the Military Hospital in Curragh, but he died of the conditions on 14th November 1918, three days after the Armistice was signed. He was 42 years old.

The body of Bertie Charles Bridger was brought back to Sussex, and he was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery to the north of Worthing. The local newspaper commented that:

Previous to his enlistment the deceased soldier was an outside porter at the Railway Station for nearly thirty years, and the sympathy of a wide circle of friends will be extended to his widow and two children.

Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 27th November 1918

Private Bertie Bridger (from Ancestry.com)

CWG: Private Charles Wood

Private Charles Wood

Charles Wood is destined to be one of those servicemen whose lives remain shrouded in mystery.

He was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, and his widow, Ellen, is buried with him. There are two headstones on the site – a family one, and a more recent war grave.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website give his age – 48 years old when he died – and states that he was a Private in the 263rd Company of the Royal Defence Corps and gives his service number. This was a territorial force, so it is probable that he served on home soil.

The only remaining military document relating to him is the Army Register of Soldier’s Effects. This confirms that he died in the Red Cross Hospital in Portishead on 12th November 1917, and that his belongings passed to his widow. It does highlight that he received a war gratuity, which was only applicable to soldiers who had completed at least six months’ service, so we know that he enlisted before May 1917.

There are a number of censuses available for the Weston-super-Mare area, but there at least two men called Charles Wood who married women called Ellen, so it is a challenge to identify which is the man buried in this grave.

A usual source of information would be his service record – which, in addition to his military activity, would give an address as well as other family members. However, this document is not available for Private Wood.

There is no mention of his passing in any of the contemporary newspapers, so it seems unlikely that his death was anything out of the ordinary.

Charles Wood is, sadly, lost to time, one of the countless men and women who gave up their lives for King and Country.

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.

CWG: Serjeant Tom Harvey

Serjeant Tom Harvey

Tom Harvey was born in the spring of 1871, one of four children to John and Caroline. John was a fly driver, hiring out a pony and trap for a fee, while his wife brought in extra money working as a laundress. The family lived in Weston-super-Mare, on the Somerset coast, in a town house they shared with another family, the Painters.

Details of Tom’s early life is a bit sketchy. The 1891 census lists him as a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, with his address as the Royal Naval Hospital in East Stonehouse, Plymouth, where he was ‘receiving treatment’. Sadly, none of his military records survive, so there is nothing to confirm his dates of service.

In 1894, demobbed and working as a cab driver in his home town, Tom married a woman called Sarah. Little other information exists about her, but what is known is that she worked as a dressmaker to supplement her husband’s income, and the couple did not go on to have any children. The couple lived in Hopkins Street, near the centre of Weston-super-Mare, and initially took in boarders to help finances.

By the time war broke out in 1914, Tom was in his forties. Eventually called back into service, he joined the 261st Company of the Royal Defence Corps and, with the role of Serjeant, he would have had men under his command. The 261st was part of Southern Command, which provided a territorial defence force, or Home Guard, and a lot of his time was spent in Birmingham.

It was while he was home on leave that Tom fell ill. The local media picked up the story:

The death occurred on Sunday under sudden circumstances of Sergeant Tom Harvey, Royal Defence Corps… The deceased was proceeding to his residence… when he fell, and was only able to give his address and to state that he was suffering from chronic indigestion before he expired. Prior to joining up as a National Volunteer, the deceased has been engaged as an omnibus driver.

Western Daily Press: Tuesday 3rd July 1917

Tom Harvey was 46 years old when he died. He was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in his home town of Weston-super-Mare.

CWG: Private Henry Frampton

Private Henry Frampton

Arthur Henry “Harry” Frampton was born in 1882, the oldest of six children to Henry and Alice. Henry Sr worked as a clerk and cashier in a shoe factory in Bridgwater, while Harry and his brothers also initially followed that line of work.

In the autumn of 1908, Harry married Emma Jane Lee, who was originally from Crediton in Devon. The couple went on to have two children, Rose and John, and, by the time of the next census, the family were living in a small house in the middle of Bridgwater. Harry, by this time, was working as a general labourer.

War broke out, and Harry was quick to enlist. Initially assigned to the Somerset Light Infantry in December 1914, Private Frampton was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps after two years’ service.

He was part of the army’s territorial force, and it seems likely that his transfer to the RDC may have been on medical grounds. He had been admitted to Castlemount Military Hospital (in Dover) a couple of times, suffering from “rheumatism and debility”.

Private Frampton’s later medical report stated that he was a frail man, with an accentuated heartbeat, which gave rise to fainting. He had no appetite and suffered from insomnia, and, according to the report, was “quite unfit to perform the duties of a soldier”.

Ultimately, this led to Harry being medically discharged from the army, and he was demobbed on 10th March 1917, after just over two years’ service.

Little is known about Harry after his discharge form the army. His pension record confirms that he passed away on 26th October 1919, having suffered from dyspepsia (indigestion) and debility. He was 37 years old.

Harry Frampton lies at rest in the St John’s Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater, Somerset.

CWG: Private Martin Kiddle

Private Martin Kiddle

Martin Kiddle was born in 1871, the oldest of four children to Joseph and Annie Kiddle. Joseph was a butcher in the Somerset town of Street, and the family lived above the shop on the High Street.

When Joseph died in 1886, Martin took on the role of shopman, before taking over the business entirely.

In 1895, aged 24, Martin married Eleanor Freeman, four years his senior from the nearby town of Ilminster. The young couple had five children and, by the time of the 1901 census, they were running the business as a family, employing an assistant in the shop and a domestic servant.

It is evident that Martin left the butchery business behind him, though. Ten years later, on the 1911 census, he is listed as a Stock Room Manager in a local rug factory.

Martin joined up when war broke out, initially serving in the Somerset Light Infantry, before transferring across to the Royal Defence Corps.

While there is no date for his transfer, it is likely to have been at some point in 1915. Private Kiddle’s wife, Eleanor, passed away in May of that year, so it is reasonable to assume that he requested a transfer to support her before her death, or to support his children afterwards.

Sadly, however, Martin was also to succumb to illness. His pension ledger shows that he passed away on 5th March 1917, dying from carcinoma of the liver. He was 46 years old.

Martin Kiddle lies at rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in his home town of Street. The gravestone gives dedications to his father, Joseph, and his brother, John, who had died as just over a year old.

Guardianship of Martin and Eleanor’s five, now orphaned, children – Eleanor, Martin, John, Rachel and George – passed to Martin’s mother, Annie.

CWG: Lance Corporal William Larkin

Lance Corporal William Larkin

William Larkin was born in 1863, the eldest son of Alfred and Frances Larkin from Cranbrook in Kent.

He disappears off the radar for a few censuses – there are too many variations on his surname to identify exactly where he was on the 1881 and 1891 documents.

From later documents, however, we can identify that he married Eliza in around 1886; the couple had no children. By the 1901 censes the couple were living to the north of Maidstone; ten years later, they were running the Fox & Goose pub in Weavering, Kent.

Private Larkin’s military service is also lacking in documentation, but some information can be pieced together.

Originally enlisting in the Royal West Kent Regiment, he (was) transferred over to the Royal Defence Corps, and served on home soil.

On Sunday 2nd April 1916, Lance Corporal Larkin was on guard at a gunpowder factory in Faversham, Kent. As the Ministry of Munitions reported at the time:

During the weekend a serious fire broke out in a powder factory in Kent, which led to a series of explosions in the works.

The fire, which was purely accidental, was discovered at midday and the last of the explosions took place shortly after two in the afternoon.

The approximate number of casualties is 200.

Thanet Advertiser: Saturday 8th April 1916.

William was not killed during the incident, but Boxley Parish Council (who covered the Weavering area) carried out research on the names on the village war memorial. According to that research, William “developed cancer after the ‘Faversham Powder Works’ explosion”. He died two months later, on 8th July 1916. He was 53 years of age.

Lance Corporal William Larkin lies at rest in the graveyard of St Mary & All Saints Church in Boxley, Kent.

The 1916 explosion at Faversham was the worst in the history of the British explosives industry.

At 14:20 on Sunday 2 April 1916, a huge explosion ripped through the gunpowder mill at Uplees, near Faversham, when a store of 200 tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT) was detonated following some empty sacks catching fire. The TNT and ammonium nitrate (used to manufacture amatol) had exploded.

The weather might have contributed to the start of the fire. The previous month had been wet but had ended with a short dry spell so that by that weekend the weather was “glorious”, providing perfect conditions for heat-generated combustion.

Although not the first such disaster at Faversham’s historic munitions works, the April 1916 blast is recorded as “the worst ever in the history of the UK explosives industry”, and yet the full picture is still somewhat confused.

The reason for the fire is uncertain. And considering the quantity of explosive chemicals stored at the works – with one report indicating that a further 3,000 tons remained in nearby sheds unaffected – it is remarkable, and a tribute to those who struggled against the fire, that so much of the nation’s munitions were prevented from contributing further to the catastrophe.

(Information about the explosion drawn from Wikipedia.)