Tag Archives: Royal Garrison Artillery

CWG: Gunner William Reeves

Gunner William Reeves

William Reeves was born in the summer of 1896, one of eleven children to James and Ruth Reeves. James was a house painter from Henfield in West Sussex, and it was there that he and Ruth raised their growing family.

When war came to Europe, William was keen to play his part. He enlisted as a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, and, by October 1915, was in France.

Little information survives about Gunner Reeves’ military service, but by the time he was demobbed, he had earned the Victory and British Medals, the 1915 Star and the Silver War Badge. The latter award was given to those servicemen who had been honourably discharged from service due to wounds or sickness.

William returned to Sussex, but to a quieter home, James having passed away in the spring of 1916. William was also suffering with his health. He had contracted tuberculosis while in the army, and this is the condition to which he finally succumbed. He passed away on 16th December 1919, aged just 23 years old.

William Reeves was laid to rest in Henfield Cemetery, within walking distance of his family home.


CWG: Gunner James Wing

Gunner James Wing

James Joseph Wing was born in Tonbridge, Kent, in the summer of 1876 and was the oldest of six children to Henry and Frances Wing. Henry was a labourer, but when he finished school, James found work as an errand boy for the post office.

This was not a long-term career, however, and by the time of the 1901 census, when James was 25, he was labouring for the railway. His mother had died in 1897, and Henry remarried, to a woman called Frances Stapley.

In the spring of 1902, James also married, to Sussex-born Mary Ann Goacher. The couple wed in Steyning, near Worthing, but settled in Henfield. James seemed to be picking up work where he could – the census of 1911 recorded him as a coal porter, but by the time he enlisted, in June 1916, he gave his trade as a gardener.

James joined the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner, and was initially assigned to the No. 1 Depot in Newhaven. Full details of his service are unclear, but he transferred to No. 2 Depot in Gosport, Hampshire, in the summer of 1918.

Gunner Wing had only been in Gosport for a couple of months, when he was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital in nearby Fratton. At 12:15pm on 4th December 1918, he passed away, a post mortem revealing he had succumbed to a cerebral tumour. He was 42 years of age.

James Joseph Wing was brought back to Sussex for burial. He was buried in the cemetery in his adopted home town of Henfield.


CWG: Gunner Frederick Webber

Gunner Frederick Webber

Frederick James Webber was born on 6th July 1889, and was one of nine children to Charles and Mary Webber. Charles was a machinist and wheel turner from Wolborough, near Newton Abbot in Devon, and it was in the village that Frederick and his siblings were born and raised.

The year 1902 was to prove tragic for the Webber family as Mary and two of Frederick’s siblings – Charles, who was 16, and Olive, who was 11 – all died. While there is nothing to confirm causes of death, or whether the three were related, there was a smallpox outbreak in Devon at the time, so it seems likely that the family were drawn into the tragedy.

Charles remarried three years later, to local widow Mary Harper; the couple would go on to have two children of their own. Frederick, by this point, seemed keen to make his own way in the world, and found work on the railways. The 1911 census records him as lodging with the Batten family in Penzance, Cornwall, where he was earning a living as a carriage cleaner.

On 4th September 1915, Frederick married Hannah Mary Annear (née Williams). She was nine years older than him, and was a widow with three children. The couple set up home in Redruth, Cornwall, and may have married as, with war raging across Europe, Frederick was on the verge of being called up.

Full details of Frederick’s military service are not available, but it is clear that he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery at some point in early 1916. Assigned to his adopted home county of Cornwall, he nevertheless needed training, and, for this, he was sent to the B Battery of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Brigade in the North East.

It was while here, that Gunner Webber contracted endocarditis. He was admitted to the Jeffery Hall Hospital in Sunderland, but the condition got the better of him, and he passed away on 2nd October 1916, aged just 26 years old.

Frederick James Webber was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, where his father and family still lived.


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: Sapper William Merrifield

Sapper William Merrifield

William Henry Merrifield was born on 29th December 1893, in Newton Abbot, Devon. One of six children to Henry and Kezia Merrifield, his father was an agent for the removal company Pickford’s.

When William left school, he found work as a labourer for a local tannery. War was, by this time, on the horizon, and William soon found himself caught up in it. Full details of his military service are not available, but it is clear that he had a varied career.

William initially worked for the British Red Cross as a cook, and was sent to France in October 1914. He Subsequently joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Gunner, before transferring across to the Royal Garrison Artillery. By June 1915, he had made the move again, and was recorded as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. During this time, he had been awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1914 and 1915 Stars for his war efforts.

By this point, William had seen a fair amount of tragedy in his life. Kezia had died in 1905, at the age of 44, and his sister Evelyn had passed away in 1914, aged just 25 years old. The following year, Henry also died, aged 52 years of age.

Sapper Merrifield survived the war and was demobbed in February 1919. At this point, his trail goes cold. He returned to Newton Abbot, and passed away just over a year later, on 22nd April 1920. He was 26 years old.

William Henry Merrifield was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery; his gravestone marked with the message ‘SO LONG MATEY “AU REVOIR”.


CWG: Gunner Percy Gast

Rustington

Percy Cyril Edward Gast was born in the West Sussex village of Nutbourne in 1889. His parents were William and Eliza Gast and he was one of sixteen children, seven of whom survived.

William was an agricultural labourer, and farming was the line of work the whole family went into; by the time of the 1911 census, they had moved to Rustington, near Worthing, where Percy was working as a cowman.

When war broke out, Percy enlisted, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery. His skillset soon identified, he was transferred over to the 696th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps.

While full details of his time in the army are not readily available, Private Gast served his time on home soil. Towards the end of the war he contracted influenza and pneumonia and was admitted to the Mile End Military Hospital in Newham, East London.

Sadly, the lung conditions were to prove his undoing; Private Gast passed away on 20th November 1918, at the age of just 29 years old.

Percy Cyril Edward Gast’s body was brought back to Rustington for burial. He lies at rest in the graveyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church in the Sussex village.


CWG: Gunner George Trask

Gunner George Trask

George Trask was born on 22nd December 1875 and was the oldest of nine children. His parents were Absolam and Sarah Jane Trask, although it seems that the couple did not actually marry until after their first three children had been born. Absolam was an agricultural labourer and the family lived in his and Sarah’s home village of East Coker, near Yeovil in Somerset.

George was destined for a life of adventure; in May 1894, aged just 18, he enlisted in the army, joining the Royal Artillery as a Gunner. His medical examination sheds some light on his physique. He stood 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall and weighed in at 144lbs (65.3kg). He had a fair complexion, hazel eyes and light brown hair.

Oddly, in the section on distinguishing marks – recorded to help identification should the soldier be killed – the medic only highlighted a ‘small mole midway between pubes and umbilicus’: it seems unlikely that this was the only distinguishing mark that could have been highlighted.

Gunner Trask’s initial service was spent in England. He served four-and-a-half years on the home front, before being shipped to Malta. After six months on the island, he was moved to Crete for a few months, before returning to Malta in September 1899.

George completed his initial term of seven years’ service, and elected to remain to complete a full twelve years of enlistment. As part of this, he was transferred to the Caribbean, spending two years stationed in Bermuda, before moving on to St Lucia for a further two years. By December 1905, Gunner Trask was back home in England, and it was on home soil that he remained.

Back in Somerset, George extended his term of service for another four years. Settled in his home village, he married Elizabeth Garrett on 27th December 1908; the couple would go on to have three children: Ethel (born in 1910), Lilian (1911) and George Jr (1916).

Gunner Trask’s military service continued apace. Reassigned to the Royal Garrison Artillery, he was posted in Portsmouth up until the outbreak of the war. He was awarded a third Good Conduct Medal in addition to the once he had received in 1900 and 1904.

At this point, details of George’s military service become a little hazy. He achieved 21 years’ military service on 29th May 1915 and was a further Good Conduct Medal. At this point, with the war raging, he period of duty was extended again, until the end of the conflict.

At some point during this time, he was assigned to the Royal Artillery’s School of Experimental Gunnery in Shoeburyness Essex. Sadly, there is nothing to confirm his exact role there, although, given that he was in his 40s by this point, it is likely that he acted as more of a mentor.

And it is here that the story comes to an end. Gunner Trask is noted as passing away in the Military Hospital in Shoeburyness on 31st October 1918, though there is nothing to confirm the cause of his death. He was 43 years of age.

George Trask’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. Having travelled the world with the army, he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in his home village of East Chinnock.


George’s son George was to follow his father into military service.

Working as a press operator for a plastics company, he married Gwendoline Harper in Southend, Essex in April 1940. There is no record of whether he had enlisted at this point, but is seems likely that he had.

When the Second World War broke out, he joined the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. After initially helping in the defence of England following the British Army’s evacuation from Dunkirk, late in 1941, he was sent first to Egypt, then to Singapore to help strengthen the garrison there.

Early the following year, the 4th and 5th Battalions fought in the defence of Singapore, before the island surrendered to the Japanese army. At this point, Lance Corporal Trask found himself a prisoner of war.

The prisoners were put to work building the Burma railway, and suffered great hardship at the hands of their captors. Many succumbed to illness, and George was amongst them, dying from beriberi on 18th December 1943. He was just 27 years old.

George Reginald Trask was laid to rest in the Chungkai Cemetery in Thailand, 100km west of Bangkok.


CWG: Gunner Frederick Norris

Gunner Frederick Norris

Frederick James Norris was born in the spring of 1890, one of eight children to Henry and Sarah Norris. Henry was a brewer’s drayman and groom, Sarah a milliner, and together they raised their family in the Somerset town of Yeovil.

When he left school, Frederick found work as a carman and carter, following in his father’s footsteps. Henry had died in 1907, followed by his two older brothers, Alfred in 1911 and Frank in 1912. Frederick, by this time, had met Emily Katherine White, and the couple married in Yeovil Parish Church on 23rd May 1909. They went on to have a daughter, Gwendoline, the following year.

War was fast approaching and, in December 1915, Frederick enlisted, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. After a few months’ training, he was sent to Columbo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he served for just over a year. During his time there, he had contracted tuberculosis, a condition that ultimately resulted to his return to the UK.

Gunner Norris arrived back in England in August 1917, where he was again admitted to hospital with the respiratory condition. He was ultimately discharged from the army on medical grounds in August of that year.

After leaving the army, Frederick was admitted to a sanitorium, but at this point his trail goes cold. He died on 3rd May 1918, at the age of 28. While the cause of death is not stated, it seems likely to have been as a result of his already debilitated health.

Frederick James Norris was laid to rest in the cemetery in his home town of Yeovil.


CWG: Gunner William Morgan

Gunner William Morgan

William Francis Morgan was born on 22nd January 1884 in Bengal, India. The youngest of three children, he was the son of James Morgan and his wife Mary. Both came from Ireland, marrying in 1876. They moved to London, before James was posted to India as part of his role in the Royal Horse Artillery.

Sadly James died when William was just a toddler; this prompted Mary to move the family back to England. She married again in 1887, to Edward Curling, who was a carpenter in the Royal Artillery, and the family settled on the Isle of Grain in Kent, living in the fort where Edward worked.

Surrounded by those in military service and with an army heritage himself, is it no surprise that William felt drawn to the life. In September 1898 he enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Though not yet fifteen years old, he stood 5ft 11ins (1.69m) tall and weighed in at 101lbs (46kg). He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair and four distinctive marks were noted – three scars on his head and one on his right knee.

Trumpeter Morgan certainly got to see a lot of the world during his time in the army. After a period on home soil, he was sent to Egypt on Christmas Eve 1901, staying there for just over a year. He moved on to India, returning to England five years later, by which time he had achieved the rank of Gunner.

War was imminent, and in September 1914 he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. Barring a short period at home, Gunner Morgan remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, finally returning to the UK in January 1919.

William’s time in the army was one of two halves. He had several bouts of illness during his service, coming down with phimosis in 1901, scarlet fever and gonorrhoea in 1902, a fractured clavicle in 1903, pneumonia in 1904, rheumatism in 1906, ague in 1908, pleurisy in 1909, and had to return from France to England for an operation to remove a carbuncle between his shoulder blades in the summer of 1915.

Gunner Morgan was also pulled up for his conduct a few times too. He was punished for neglect of duty in August 1908, disobeyed orders in May 1909, was pulled up for being improperly dressed while in Portsmouth’s Highbury Arms Pub in November 1909 and went AWOL for ten hours on 31st July 1913.

There were positives to William’s service too, however. He was awarded the British and Victory Medals as well as the 1914 Star during the First World War. He was mentioned in dispatches and received the Military Medal in 1917 an the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal two years later.

Sadly, though, after Gunner Morgan’s positive and lengthy military service, his time out of the army was to be brief. Returning to England on 13th January 1919, he contracted influenza and pneumonia and succumbed to the lung conditions within weeks. He passed away on 27th February 1919, at the age of just 35 years of age.

William Francis Morgan was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, Kent, just minutes’ walk from where his mother now lived.


CWG: Gunner Charlie King

Shaftesbury

Charlie Stephen King was born in Dorset on 18th October 1888, one of six children to Stephen and Virtue King. Stephen was a painter, glazier and paperhanger from Gillingham, and this is where he and Virtue raised their children.

When Charlie left school, he also went on to become a painter, but specifically for the railways, but whether this was on the rolling stock or stations, is not certain.

In October 1909, Charlie married Bessie Imber, a postman’s daughter from Shaftesbury. The couple set up home in Gillingham, before moving back to Bessie’s home town; they went on to have three children.

War was coming, though, and Charlie enlisted in December 1915. He was not formally called up until August 1916, and was assigned a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery. After initial training, he was sent to the Western Front in March 1917.

Exact details of Gunner King’s service are not available. He was certainly involved in fighting during the summer of that year, and, in September, was wounded. Evacuated back to England with a gunshot wound to his left ankle and shell shock, he was admitted to the War Hospital in Sunderland. Sadly, septicaemia set in, and he passed away on 15th September 1917, at the age of just 28 years old.

Charlie Stephen King’s body was brought back to Dorset, where he was laid to rest in the Holy Trinity Churchyard in Shaftesbury.