Tag Archives: Sapper

CWG: Sapper Percy Hunt

Sapper Percy Hunt

Percy Rendall Hunt was born on 25th May 1893, one of five children to Walter and Mary. Walter was a carpenter for the railway, and had been born in Newton Abbot, Devon, where he and Mary raised their young family.

When Percy left school, he found labouring work, but soon followed his father into carpentry. He met and married a woman called Ellen; the couple married, and went on to have two children. In his spare time, he volunteered for the Devonshire Royal Engineers and, when war broke out, despite now working in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, this was the regiment he joined.

Sapper Hunt enlisted on 2nd December 1914; his records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall, had good vision and was of fit physical development. In March 1915, Percy was shipped off to Gibraltar, spending the next eighteen months in the territory. After a couple of months back in England, he was sent to France. He spent the next two years split between serving on home soil and with the British Expeditionary Force, before being demobbed in March 1919.

Percy returned to his old job with the railways, but, in December 1919, he found himself in court, charged with assault. Caroline Webber, an elderly married woman, was on the beach in Dawlish one afternoon, looking for shells, when a man approached her. According to a newspaper report:

“…suddenly he made a grab at me, put his hand under my clothes, and caught hold of my left knee. I screamed, and he ran away. ran after him because I was determined to see where he went. He went over to the railway wall, and disappeared under the archway of Dawlish tunnel.”

Western Times: Wednesday 24th September 1919

Mrs Webber went to the police, who returned to the police with her, then traced a trail of footprints back to the tunnel. Percy was questioned, but denied all knowledge of the incident, and of knowing Caroline. A plaster cast was taken of one of the footprints that evening, and a match alleged with his boots. Percy was committed for trial, with bail being allowed.

When the trial started in January 1920, the boots were again presented as evidence. However, on questioning, the policeman admitted than there had been a delay in getting the impression, and that “there were some other impressions in the sand at the time”.

For the defence, a number of witnesses saw Percy at work around the time of the incident, and the timings seemed to prove that he could not have had enough time to get to the beach and back to carry out the alleged assault. Based on this defence, the jury found Percy not guilty, and the case was concluded.

After this incident, Percy’s trail goes cold for a few months. The next record is that confirming his death, on 18th September 1920. The cause of his passing is not evident, but he was 27 years of age.

Percy Rendall Hunt was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Highweek, Newton Abbot, not far from his family home.


CWG: Sapper Ernest Dando

Sapper Ernest Dando

Ernest Edward Dando was born in November 1884, in Paulton, Somerset. One of eight children, his parents were Hezekiah and Emma Dando. Hezekiah was a shoemaker from the town and this is a trade into which Ernest followed when he left school and through to the outbreak of war.

On 20th December 1914, Ernest married bootmaker’s daughter Emma Elizabeth Elliott in Paulton’s Holy Trinity Church. With war raging across Europe by this point, it would eventually come to Ernest’s door, however, and, in January 1917, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Sapper.

There is little documentation available about Ernest’s military life, although it is evident that his boot making skills were employed by the army. He was sent to Bangor, North Wales, for training, but contracted pneumonia while he was there. Admitted to a military hospital in the area, he passed away from the lung condition on 14th May 1917, at the age of 32 years old.

Ernest Edward Dando’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the picturesque Paulton Cemetery near the heart of the town.


Sapper Ernest Dando
(from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

CWG: Sapper Ronald Blackwell

Sapper Ronald Blackwell

Ronald James Ewart Blackwell was born in London in February 1890, one of eight children to Frederick and Elizabeth Blackwell. Frederick was a tailor from Devon, while Elizabeth had been born in Somerset. By the time of the 1911 census, they had moved back to Somerset, settling in the village of Dunster.

Ronald followed in his father’s footsteps and, by the time war broke out, was living and working in Taunton. It’s clear that he wanted to play his part in the growing conflict, enlisting in the Royal Engineers in January 1915.

Sapper Blackwell’s service records confirm that he stood 5ft 6.5ins (1.69m) tall; they also note that he had the tattoo of a heart on his left forearm. His skill as a tailor is mentioned numerous times, and it appears that this talent was how his time was put to use. He was shipped to France on 25th January 1915, and, by the end of the conflict, he was in Italy. It was from here that he returned to England on 26th January 1919.

It seems that Ronald’s return to the UK was as a result of him becoming ill, as, within a month of coming home, he was medically discharged form the army, having been suffering from tuberculosis.

Ronald returned to Somerset, but was to be dogged by the lung disease for a further year more. He passed away at home on 25th June 1920, aged just 30 years old.

Ronald James Ewart Blackwell was laid to rest in Dunster Cemetery, not far from his parents’ then home.


Ronald’s older brother, Harold Frederick Blackwell, also fought in the First World War. He was a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment. He was killed during the Allied advance into Flanders in August 1918, and was laid to rest in the Terlincthun British Cemetery in Northern France.


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: Sergeant Herbert Rendell

Sergeant Herbert Rendell

Herbert George Rendell was born in the summer of 1886, the oldest of six children to George and Catherine Rendell. George was a twine maker from West Coker, near Yeovil in Somerset, and it was in this village that he and Catherine raised their young family.

While he initially found work as a labourer when he left school, the lure of a better life and career proved too much for Herbert and, in June 1905, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. He spent three years spent on home soil, working hard and earning a Good Conduct medal for his service. During his tour of duty, he contracted pneumonia, spending five weeks in hospital in Chatham, Kent, over Christmas 1905, but fully recovering.

In September 1908, Herbert was sent to Singapore for a three-year tour of duty with the 21st Company. His body was not accustomed to the different environment, and he was hospitalised three times for malaria and myalgia, as well as two bouts of gonorrhoea in 1908 and 1910.

In December 1911, Sapper Rendell returned home, where he served for a further three years before war broke out in the summer of 1914. Having been promoted to Lance Corporal, and after a short bout in hospital following a reaction to his cowpox vaccination, he was sent to Egypt.

Assigned to the 359th Water Company, he would have been charged with constructing and maintaining the supply pipes to and from the Front Line and for his work was soon promoted to Corporal.

In the spring of 1918, the now Sergeant Rendell was transferred to the 357th Water Company, and found himself in Palestine, where he stayed until the end of the war. He came home on leave in April 1919, and it was here that, once again, he contracted pneumonia.

Sadly, Sergeant Rendell was not to recover from the lung condition for a second time; he passed away at his parents’ home on 9th April 1919, at the age of 32 years old.

Herbert George Rendell was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery, not far from the village where he was born.


CWG: Sapper Walter Clark

Sapper Walter Clark

Walter Hudson Clark was born in 1883, the youngest of eight children to Thomas and Isabella Clark from Gillingham, Kent. Thomas was a miller who, with his wife, who was affectionately known as Sibella, raised their family in the centre of town.

When he left school, Walter found work as an apprentice to a painter and decorator. After Sibella died in 1903, he and two of his sisters remained living at home and, by the time of the 1911 census, he was supporting his father by working as a cooper in the nearby Naval Dockyard in Chatham.

Thomas passed away in December 1915, and this may have been the spur to guide his son into enlisting. Little documentation about Walter’s military service remains available although he joined the 480th Field Company of the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. He was in receipt of the Victory and British Medals, but there is nothing to confirm that he served abroad, so it seems likely that he was part of the territorial force.

Sadly this is where Sapper Clark’s trail goes cold. He survived the war, but died on 20th February 1920, at the age of 37 years old. There is no cause of death available either, but Walter was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in his home town of Gillingham, Kent.


CWG: Company Sergeant Major Hugh Caston

Company Sergeant Major Hugh Caston

Hugh Charles Caston was born in Chelsea in the summer of 1881, the oldest of three children to Emily and Hugh Caston. Hugh Sr died in the late 1880, leaving Emily to raise the family on her own. She moved the family to Gillingham, Kent, to be near her family. She found work as a seamstress and took in boarders.

As the effective head of the family, Hugh obviously felt he had to earn a wage. On 1st August 1896, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Bugler.

Hugh’s medical report shows he stood at 5ft 4.5ins (1.63m) tall and weighed 97lbs (44kg). He had a medium complexion, with brown eyes and brown hair. The report also gave his distinctive marks as being a scar on his forehead, a brown patch on his left buttock and that his eyebrows meet.

Initially too young for full active service, Hugh formally joined up on 1st June 1897. He spent more than five years on home soil, rising through the ranks from Sapper to Lance Corporal to 2nd Corporal. In May 1902, he was posted to Malta, returning home nearly two years later. Hugh’s promotions continued over the next decade, and, by the time war broke out, he had reached the rank of Company Sergeant Major.

By this point, Hugh had married, wedding Rochester woman Mary May Coast in September 1907. The couple went on to have two children, Hubert, who sadly died young, and Joan.

War came to Europe, and things took a turn for Company Sergeant Major Caston. He was admitted to Netley Hospital near Portsmouth, with mania:

Patient’s very restless, often gets ‘excited’ is thwarted in any way. Has a delusion that he is to be promoted to Major and that he possesses great wealth. He continually asks that his motor may be sent round to take him out, also that his tailor be sent for to rig him out. Stated this morning that he wished all the other patients be supplied with Egyptian cigarettes.

Medical Report on Hugh Caston, 20th January 1915

The medical officer went on to state that he did not consider that military service had in any contributed to the mania; he was dismissed from the army on medical grounds on 2nd February 1915, after nearly 20 years’ service.

Sadly, at this point Hugh’s trail goes cold. There is no documentation relating to his time after being discharged from the army and, tragically, after his death Mary was not granted a war pension, as he had served for less that six months during the First World War.

Hugh Charles Caston died on 18th June 1917, at the age of 36 years old. While the cause of his passing is lost to time, he was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.


CWG: Serjeant George Carpenter

Serjeant George Carpenter

George Palmer Carpenter was born in Worthing, West Sussex, in 1881, one of fourteen children to James and Elizabeth Carpenter. James ran the Steyne Hotel on the seafront, and sent his boys off to the Lucton Boarding School in Henfield for their education.

A regimented life seems to have suited George. When he left school, he enlisted in army, joining the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. The 1901 census found him billeted at the Elphinstone Barracks in Portsmouth.

Sadly, there is little further documentation on the life of Sapper Carpenter. He served through to and during the Great War, attaining the rank of Serjeant. He was sent to France in May 1915, though there is little to confirm his role there, or how long he stayed.

Serjeant Carpenter was subsequently attached to G Depot Company of the Royal Engineers, which received men returned from Expeditionary Force and also men enlisted for Tunnelling Companies, Special Companies and other specialist units. By this time – presumably later on in the conflict – he was based back in England, at the regiment’s barracks in Chatham, Kent.

When the war came to a close, George continued with his army career. With conflict in Europe coming end, he was shipped to Singapore in 1917, where he served through to 1920. A Sussex newspaper picked up his story from there:

Much sympathy will be extended to Mrs Carpenter and her family, of the Steyne Hotel, consequent upon the death of Sergeant George Carpenter, of the Royal Engineers, another of our Worthing boys whose life has been laid down in his country’s service. He arrived home in a bad state of health on the 25th of February last from Singapore, where he had been on duty for three years. Suffering from gastric influenza, it was found necessary that he should undergo an operation, which was carried out at midnight on Saturday. But he sank from weakness, and died at half-past eight on Sunday morning. This is the second son of whom Mrs Carpenter has been bereaved within a year, and there is pathos in the words addressed to us by her: “I have again the sorrowful task of sending the news of the death of one of my sons this morning.

Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 24th March 1920

George Palmer Carpenter was 39 years old. He was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery of his home town, Worthing, in West Sussex.


The other brother referred to in the report was George’s younger brother Norman.

He had emigrated to Canada in 1906, but returned to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force when war broke out. Wounded in battle in May 1917, he returned to the UK for treatment and recuperation, and remained on home soil for the rest of the war.

In the spring of 1919, he was admitted to hospital with pleurisy and anaemia, and seems that he never fully recovered, succumbing to the conditions in August of that year. He was just 32 years old.


CWG: Corporal Harold Mattick

Corporal Harold Mattick

Harold Mattick was born in the spring of 1895, the youngest of four children to Walter and Augusta. Walter was a harness maker and brought the family up in his home town of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

When he left school, Harold found work as a plumber. He seemed to had sought a life of adventure, however, and, in 1908, aged just 14, enlisted in the Wessex Division of the Royal Engineers as a Bugler. He served for five years, fulfilling his duties at the same time as carrying out his plumbing work.

When war broke out, Harold immediately re-enlisted. As a Sapper, he was assigned to the 1st/2nd (Wessex) Field Company. After initial training, he was sent to the front as part of the British Expeditionary Force just before Christmas in 1914.

Sapper Mattick was caught up in some of the fiercest fighting on the Wester Front, including the First and Second Battles of Ypres. On 30th September 1915, at Loos, he received a gunshot wound in his right leg, which fractured his tibia. The Germans were also using gas to attack the Allied front lines, which also affected Harold.

Medically evacuated to England for treatment on 9th October, his condition was such that he was discharged from the army on health grounds six months later, on 30th March 1916.

Sadly, while Harold’s leg healed, the injuries he sustained in the gas attack were too severe for him to recover from. He died at home from a lung condition on 24th July 1917, aged just 22 years old.

Harold Mattick was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery of his home town, Weston-super-Mare.


CWG: Sapper Frank Hussey

Sapper Frank Hussey

Frank Hussey was born in the autumn of 1870, one of eight children to William and Ann Hussey. William was a mason, and raised his family in Weston-super-Mare in his home county of Somerset. When he left school, Frank found employment as a general labourer, initially in Somerset, but then in South Wales with his older brother Samuel.

By 1889, Frank has moved back to Somerset, where he married Elizabeth Webber in December. Work was obviously more available in South Wales, however, as the couple moved back to Glamorgan, and had their first four children – Beatrice, William, Edith and Hubert – there.

The turn of the century saw the Hussey family return to Somerset. Frank, by now, was working as a bricklayer, and they settled in a small house near the centre of Weston. Life continued on, with building work helping to support the family. Frank and Elizabeth had two more children – James and Marion – and, by the time of the 1911 census, the couple were living with their five youngest children in a two-up-two-down house on the then outskirts of the town.

Storm clouds were gathering over in Europe, and Frank was more than willing to do his bit for King and country. Having already been a volunteer with the Royal Engineers, he formally enlisted with the regiment on 5th May 1915.

Sapper Hussey was assigned to the 2nd (Wessex) Field Company, which was a territorial force. He was mobilised for fourteen months, before being discharged from the army as he was no longer physically fit for war service. Unfortunately, his military records give no further indication as to his ailment or condition.

Frank’s trail goes cold for a few years. Released from service in July 1916, the next identifiable record is from four years later. This confirms that he died from tuberculosis on 26th May 1920, aged 49 years old. Given the debilitating effect of the condition, it seems likely that Sapper Hussey contracted it during the war, and this is what had led to his dismissal.

Frank Hussey had died at home, and it was in the Milton Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare that he was laid to rest.