Tag Archives: Royal West Kent Regiment

CWG: Lance Corporal Ernest Hills

Lance Corporal Ernest Hills

Ernest Albert Hills was born in December 1877, and was the fifth of ten children to Benjamin and Elizabeth Hills. Benjamin was a labourer for a brick maker from the Kent village of Upnor, but it was along the coast in Faversham that he and Elizabeth were to raise their young family.

When he left school, Ernest followed in his father’s footsteps, working in the local brick kiln. By the time of the 1911 census, however, he had moved to South East London and was boarding with his younger brother, William, working with him as a stoker for a Greenwich gas company.

War came to Europe, and Ernest wanted to play his part. On 20th April 1915, he enlisted, joining the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) as a Private. His service records give his height as 5ft 9.75ins (1.77m) and note that he had a scar on the right side of his abdomen.

Private Hills’ service was carried out on home soil: he was assigned to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, which was based in Maidstone and Chatham. Ernest was obviously well thought of: within six months of enlisting, he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

His good fortune was not to last for long, however, in the spring of 1916, he fell ill and, while at his family home in March, he passed away, having been suffering from Addison’s disease, a rare disorder of the disorder of the adrenal glands. He was 39 years of age.

Lance Corporal Ernest Albert Hills was laid to rest in the Faversham Borough Cemetery, not far from his family home, and where his father – who had passed away in 1903 – had also been laid to rest.

CWG: Private Hubert Fox

Private Hubert Fox

Hubert Edward Fox was born in the spring of 1865, the youngest of five children to Alfred and Eliza Fox. Alfred was a baker, from Faversham, and it was in the town that he and Eliza raised their young family.

When he finished school, Hubert found work as a carter and labourer. He served in the King’s Royal Rifles for eight years, spending two of those stationed in Egypt.

In 1894 John married Elizabeth Rebecca Harris in their home town. The couple set up home in the Abbey Road, to the north of the town, and went on to have six children between 1896 and 1909.

When war broke out, Hubert enlisted to play his part once more. He joined up in 1915, and was assigned to the Royal Defence Corps. Private Fox was on guard duty at the Uplees Munitions Factory on 2 April 1916, when a series of explosions ripped through the base. The loss of life was horrific – more than 100 men and boys were killed – and Hubert was fortunate enough to escape serious injury.

In May 1918, Private Fox was invalided out of the army on medical grounds. He was sent to a hospital in Reading, Berkshire, returning to Kent after around six weeks. He was treated in the town’s nursing home, but never fully recovered from his illness: he passed away on 22nd August 1918, at the age of 53 years of age.

Hubert Edward Fox was laid to rest in the Borough Cemetery of his home town, Faversham, not far from the family home in Abbey Road.

At the time of Hubert’s funeral, his eldest son, also called Hubert, was reported as missing in action.

Hubert Jr had enlisted in the 10th Battalion of the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) in August 1915, embarking for France the following May. After two years, Private Fox Jr moved to Italy with his division, but returned to the Western Front just a few months later.

In April 1918, Hubert was reported missing in action; he was later confirmed to be a Prisoner of War, and was eventually released and repatriated home in December 1918.

Hubert found work as a labourer and night watchman; the 1939 Register records him living in his Abbey Road home with his mother. He died the summer of 1968, at the age of 71 years old.

CWG: Private Thomas Townsend

Private Thomas Townsend

Thomas Townsend was born in Maidstone, Kent, in around 1864. Details of his early life are sketchy, but his mother was Mary Townsend, and he had an older brother, Henry.

Thomas worked as a labourer, mainly in brickyards, and, at the turn of the century, was living in to the north of Maidstone. The 1901 census records him as sharing his home with his wife, Lydia Townsend, her son, George Andrews, and a visitor, seven-year-old John Lassam.

The next census, in 1911, Thomas and Lydia are both shown as living in the same house, although it notes they had been married for eight years. John Lassam is still living at the property, by now as a boarder, while he was also working as a labourer.

Conflict was closing in on Europe and, despite being 50 when war was declared, Thomas was keen to play his part. He initially enlisted in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, but soon transferred across to The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). Full details of his service as unclear, but it seems he was assigned to the National Reserve Guard at Faversham, Kent.

Private Townsend’s role was guard duty, possibly at the munitions factory in the town. While carrying out this role in the autumn of 1915, he caught a chill, which then became pneumonia. He was admitted to the Faversham Military Hospital, but the lung condition was to get the better of him, and he passed away on 28th November 1915. He was 51 years of age.

Thomas Townsend was laid to rest in Faversham Borough Cemetery, not far from where he carried out his military role.

CWG: Private Henry Greenfield

Private Henry Greenfield

Henry Gordon Greenfield was born in Worthing, West Sussex, in 1890. The fourth of nine children, his parents were Edmund and Caroline. Edmund was a carter from the town, who raised his family in a small terraced house near the station.

By the early 1900s, Edmund had changed profession, becoming a plasterer, and this was employment that his son followed him into. This seems to have been more lucrative for the family, and they moved to a larger property to the north of the town.

In August 1911, Henry married Edith Tombs. Edith was a gardener’s daughter from London, who had moved to Worthing for work. When the couple married, she was employed as a domestic servant for a solicitor and his wife. The young couple would go on to have three sons.

When war broke out, Henry was quick to enlist. He initially joined the Royal Sussex Regiment, serving his time as part of the 10th Battalion. This was a reserve company, that was based on home soil. When hostilities came to an end, Henry was transferred to the Labour Corps, and was billeted in Belfast.

Little further information about Henry’s service can be confirmed; he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Belfast with pneumonia, but sadly died of the condition on 27th February 1919. He was just 28 years old.

Brought back to Worthing, Henry Gordon Greenfield lies at rest in the Broadwater Cemetery there, not far from his parents and widow.

Henry’s younger brother Frederick also served during the Great War. Joining the Royal West Kent Regiment as a horse driver, he fought on the Western Front. He was killed on 17th August 1917, and is buried at the Duisans Cemetery in northern France. He was just 21 years of age.

CWG: Private Sidney Ford

Private Sidney Ford

Sidney Ford was born in Kent in 1896, the son of Stephen John Ford and his second wife, Elizabeth Ann (née Underdown). The couple had four children – Frederick, Sidney, Ethel and Alice – although it seems that Elizabeth brought them up almost singlehandedly. Sidney’s military records gives his father’s name, although simply notes that he was an imbecile, in the stark way that only Edwardian officials could.

Sadly, little of Sidney’s early life remains documented. By the time war broke out, he was working as a farm labourer in Yalding, close to where he was born. He enlisted at the end of October 1914, joining the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), and was assigned to the 8th (Service) Battalion as a Private.

Joining up in Maidstone, by the end of the year, Private Ford’s battalion was soon billeted in Worthing, West Sussex. Tragically, his service was destined to be a short one, and he passed away after only a month in the town.

The first death from the Red Cross Hospital, Cecil’s, at West Worthing, had to be recorded. Since it has been opened there have been a large number of cases, and many of them have been of a serious nature, but happily all except the one under notice have made progress, thanks to the skill of the Medical Officers and Nursing Staff of the institution.

The deceased in this instance was a Private of the Eighth Battalion of the West Kent Regiment, now stationed locally. His name was Sidney Ford, and he was twenty-five years of age. He died on Friday, and at the funeral, which took place on Monday, full Military honours were accorded him.

Colonel Vansittart (who commands the Eighth Battalion) and Major Bock-Hollinshead attended, as also did other members of the Staff of the Hospital. A large number of the public were also at the Cemetery to witness the last rites, the progress of so long and so imposing a procession through the streets attracting considerable attention.

Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 20th January 1915

Private Ford has died on 15th January 1915, and was actually just 20 years of age, not 25, as had been reported. The Worthing Gazette does not give no mention to Sidney’s family, so it can only be assumed that they were unable to make the journey from Kent to the funeral. I have been unable to uncover details of the cause of his death, but, given that there is no mention of the cause in the newspaper, it is likely to have been following an illness than anything more sensational or unusual.

Sidney Ford lies at rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in Worthing, one of the first in the town to have passed because of the Great War.

Sidney’s older brother, Frederick, was also involved in the Great War. While there is little specific information about his service, it is evident that he was a Private in the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment).

Unlike his younger brother, Frederick did see military action, but list his life on the Western Front on 4th November 1915, ten months after Sidney had passed in Worthing.

Frederick lies at rest in the Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard in Laventie, in Northern France.

CWG: Private Sidney Lord

Private Sidney Lord

Sidney George Lord was born on 29th March 1895, one of six children to Sidney and Clara Lord. Sidney Sr was a shipwright from Bideford in Devon, and he brought the family to Kent, presumably for work at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham.

Sidney Sr passed away in 1912 and his son left school, finding work as a plumber’s apprentice. War was on the horizon, however and he was keen to do his bit as soon as possible. Sidney Jr enlisted in November 1914, joining the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

After his initial training, Private Lord was sent to the Front on 22nd April 1915, serving in France with his regiment for just over a year. Towards the end of this time he became anaemic, and was shipped back to England for treatment.

Private Lord was admitted to the Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne, but sadly succumbed to his anaemia a matter of weeks later. He passed away on 12th July 1916, having not lung turned 21 years of age.

Sidney George Lord was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, close to where his father was buried.

Private Sidney Lord

CWG: Rifleman Walter Bromley

Rifleman Walter Bromley

Walter Vaine Bromley was born in March 1877, one of seven children to Frederick and Jane Bromley. Frederick was a gardener, and the family lived in Maidstone, Kent. Sadly Jane died when Walter was only two years old; while the cause of her death is not noted, she passed away in the Barming Lunatic Asylum in Kent.

Things must have been tough for Frederick; his maternal aunt, Sarah, came to live with the family to help raise his children, but further support seems to have been needed and, by the time of the 1891 census, Walter was a student at the Kent County Industrial School, which was, in effect, a boys home, near Ashford.

By the end of that year, having left school, he enlisted in the army, joining the Royal West Kent Regiment. He served most of his twelve years’ enrolment in India, although he suffered numerous hospital admissions for dysentery, ague and orchitis (a swelling of the testicles, often brought about by a sexually transmitted bacterial infection), amongst other ailments.

On being demobbed, Walter became a postman; he moved to Gillingham, and was given a round serving the Eastcourt area of the town. A year later, he married Rose Brenchley, and the couple went on to have four children; Ada, Violet, Frederick and Hilda.

Hostilities began, and, in July 1915, Walter enlisted in the 8th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Post Office Rifles). Rifleman Bromley served as part of the Territorial Force for his first year, before being sent to France in August 1916.

His time there was cut short, however, as he received a gunshot wound in the left ankle. William was repatriated to England for treatment, and was eventually medically discharged from the army on 22nd August 1917.

Surprisingly, it seems not to have been the ankle wound that led to Rifleman Bromley’s passing, however. His pension records, instead, give his cause of death as a goitre contracted whilst on active service. Either way, he passed on 9th July 1918, at the age of 41 years old.

Walter Vaine Bromley lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in his adopted home town of Gillingham in Kent.

Walter Bromley (from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Private Edward Carver

Private Edward Carver

Edward Carver is one of those soldiers whose details have been lost in the mists of time.

From the information I have been able to gather, Edward was born in Kent in 1887, although I have been unable to track down his parents or any firm census records.

Edward married Violet Ethel Caroline Belsey in April 1918 and enlisted in the Royal West Kent (Queen’s Own) Regiment, although he later transferred to the Labour Corps. I have nothing to confirm, however, in which order these three events happened.

The Army Register of Soldier’s Effects records that Private Carver died at home – Chestnut Street in Sittingbourne – and confirms that this was on 20th November 1918, around six months after he and Violet married.

Nothing in contemporary media suggests that his passing was unusual, so it can only be assumed that something like pneumonia or influenza was the cause of his death. (It might also had had something to do with his transfer of regiments, although, again, I have nothing to confirm that this might be the case.)

Edward Carver lies at rest in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Newington, Kent. He was 31 years old.

As an aside, Edward’s widow, Violet, married an Arthur Beaumont in December 1919, and the couple went on to have two children.

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 Faversham Explosion, 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.

More details of the Faversham Explosion, along with the servicemen who died there, can be found here.

CWG: Corporal Sidney Hornby

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Sidney Horace Hornby was born to John and Emily in March 1880. John was a tailor’s assistant from Paddington, and the family – Sidney was the eldest of six siblings – initially lived in the Greenwich.

Sidney enlisted in the army in 1898. He joined the East Kent Regiment for a short service of seven years and was sent to South Africa. In March 1900 he was wounded at the Battle of Driefontein. His service, though, saw him promoted through the ranks from Private to Sergeant.

Something must have happened during his enlistment, however, as on 2nd September 1901 Sergeant Hornby’s military record marks him as having deserted.

Sidney’s records pick him up again on 24th April 1908, when he is put on court martial. Found guilty of desertion, he is reduced to the ranks and sentenced to three years’ penal servitude (later reduced to two years’ hard labour).

His attitude seems to continue, however, as within a matter of months he was discharged due to misconduct and denied any pension for his previous service.

Sidney’s family had moved from Greenwich to Kent at some point before the 1901 census, and his father died three years later. By the 1911 census, he had moved back in with his mother, and worked as a labourer to help look after them.

The Great War called, however, and it seems that Sidney’s previous misdemeanours did not excluding him from fighting again. He joined the Royal West Kent Regiment although his full service for the 1914-18 campaign are not accessible. Again, his service seems to have been good, as he was elevated to the rank of Sergeant for a second time.

Hints of Sergeant Hornby’s rebellious nature remain, however, as he was court marshalled again in February 1916. He was convicted of drunkenness, and reduced to the rank of Corporal.

That was the summer of the Battle of the Somme, and by the autumn Hornby was one of the many who fell during that time. He died on 4th October 1916 and was 36 years old.

Corporal Sidney Hornby is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Sidney Horace Hornby was my 1st cousin, four times removed.