Albert John Woolcott was born in the spring of 1877 and was one of three children to Thomas and Mary. Thomas was a labourer for a spirit company, and both he and huis wife came from Chard in Somerset, which is where Albert and his siblings were born.
When he finished school, Albert was apprenticed to a local iron foundry and, by the time of the 1901 census, he was recorded as being a blacksmith in his own right.
By this point, Albert had met local woman Mary Pattimore: the couple married in the local church on Boxing Day 1901, and went on to have four children, all of them boys. Albert continued with his ironwork: the 1911 census records him as being the blacksmith at Chard’s Gifford Fox & Co.’s lace factory.
Albert played a keen role in the local volunteer movement for the Somerset Light Infantry. Through the town’s Constitutional Club he took an active role in its rifle range and was known to be a particularly skilled marksman. He also played in both the Volunteer Band and Chard’s Municipal Band.
When war came to Europe in August 1914, Albert was already billeted on Salisbury Plain as part of the volunteers, and was promoted to the rank of Serjeant. He was sent to India with his troop – the 5th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry – and remained there until April 1916.
By this point, Serjeant Woolcott was suffering from dorsal abscesses on his hands, and was evacuated back to England for treatment. Over the next nine months he was in and out of Netley Hospital on the outskirts of Southampton, where he had a number of operations to try and fix the problem.
Sadly, his treatment proved unsuccessful: Serjeant Woolcott passed away in the hospital on 19th January 1917, at the age of 39 years old.
Albert John Woolcott’s body was taken back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in his home town’s cemetery.
Thomas Harris – known as Tom – was born on 13th October 1876, the only son of Edmund and Mary Harris. Edmund was an agricultural labourer from the Somerset village of Seavington St Mary, and this is where Tom was born and raised.
Mary had married Edmund in the spring of 1876, but had been married before; she was widowed when her previous husband, Alfred Vickery, died ten years before. They had had seven children of their own, half-siblings to Tom.
Edmund died in the Wells Lunatic Asylum when Tom was only six years old. When he left school, he found work as a farm labourer, but sought bigger and better things, even though he was now the only one of Mary’s children still living at home.
Tom enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry in January 1893, and soon found himself overseas. During his sixteen years’ service, he spent seven years in India and six months fighting in the Second Boer War. Corporal Harris seems to have had a sickly time of it, and while in India, was admitted to hospital a number of times for fever, ague and diarrhoea, as well as a bout of conjunctivitis.
When Tom’s contract came to an end in 1909, he returned to Britain, setting up home in Newport, South Wales, where he found work as a sheet weigher at the local steel works.
Mary died of senile decay and cardiac failure in May 1910. She was 74 years old, and sadly passed away in the Chard Workhouse, in similar circumstances to her late husband.
In October 1913, Tom married Ada Long in Chard. She was the daughter of a shopkeeper, and the couple set up home in South Wales, where Tom was still working.
War, by now, was closing in on Europe, and Tom wanted to use his previous experience to serve his country once again. He enlisted on 20th August 1914 in Newport, joining the Devonshire Regiment as a Private, although he was quickly promoted first to Corporal and then to Serjeant. His service records show that he was 5ft 8ins (1.73m) tall, had blue eyes, brown hair and a tattoo of a Spanish girl on his right forearm.
After a year on the Home Front, Serjeant Harris was sent to Egypt in September 1915. On the way out, he contracted a severe cold, which left him deaf in his left ear. He was also suffering from varicose veins, which left him in pain in his right leg. He was treated for both conditions, and put on light duties for three months.
In November 1916, Serjeant Harris was supporting a food convoy when it came under attack. Buried in sand and wounded, he was laid up in a hole for two days and nights before help came. He was initially treated for shell shock in the camp hospital, but was eventually evacuated to Britain for treatment.
The incident had put too much of a strain on Tom, and he was medically discharged from the army in April 1917. While his medical report confirmed that the general paralysis he was suffering from was a result of the attack, it also noted on six separate occasions that he had previously suffered from syphilis, suggesting this may also have been a contributing factor to his mental state.
Tom was discharged initially to an asylum in South Wales, before returning home to Ada. The couple were soon expecting a child, and a boy, Sidney, was born in February 1918. By that summer, however, Tom’s condition had worsened enough for him to be admitted back to the Whitchurch Military Hospital in Cardiff.
It was here that Tom passed away, dying from a combination of chronic phlebitis – an extension of the varicose veins he had previously complained of – and general paralysis on 8th August 1918. He was, by this point, 41 years of age.
Tom Harris was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest – finally at peace – in Chard Cemetery.
William George Syms was born in in the spring of 1889, the oldest of two children to George and Rose Symes (both spellings are recorded). George was a postman from Devon, and the family were born and raised in Highweek, Newton Abbot.
When William left school, he followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a postman in his home town. Life was not without its ups and downs, however, and the 1911 census record him as an inpatient, convalescing from an unknown illness in Exmouth.
In the summer of 1913, William married Amelia Oliver, a gardener’s daughter, who also from Highweek.
When war broke out William was eager to play his part, and enlisted in the early months of the conflict, alongside a number of his colleagues. He joined the Royal Engineers, and was assigned to the 1st (Wessex) Division Signal Company. He was sent to France on 22nd December 1914 and was involved on the Front Line from early on.
By the spring of 1915, he was fighting at Ypres, and was badly injured, fracturing both legs and suffering from the effects of being gassed. Serjeant Syms – as he was by then ranked – was medically evacuated to England for treatment. He was admitted to the Auxiliary Military Hospital in Manchester, but died of his injuries on 12th May 1915. He was just 26 years old.
William George Syms’ body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in his home town of Highweek. Tragically, he was never to see his son, also called William, who had been born just two months before.
Frederick Charles Flint was born in the summer of 1872 in Bath, Somerset. He was the oldest of seven children to tailor Frederick Flint and his wife, Mary Ann.
Tailoring, however, was not a career that Frederick Jr wanted to follow and, in November 1890, he enlisted in the 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Over his twelve years’ service, he was posted to India and South Africa, gaining clasps for the Punjab Frontier 1897-1898, Relief of Ladysmith, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Cape Colony, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and 1902 and the King’s South Africa Medal.
He returned to England in 1902, when he found employment as a postman back in Bath. He met Florence Novena Fishlock and the couple married at St Michael’s Church in Bath on 5th February 1905, before moving to nearby Radstock.
Frederick remained with the Post Office until the outbreak of war, when he again listed for duty, re-joining the Somerset Light Infantry. While he did not serve overseas, Serjeant Flint took on a training a mentoring role on Salisbury Plain. Suffering from tuberculosis, he was formally discharged from the army on medical ground in August 1915, and returned home.
The next few years proved challenging for Frederick, as his illness left him incapacitated. He was nursed through by Florence, but eventually his body could take no more. He succumbed to the condition on 28th March 1918, at the age of 45 years old.
Frederick Charles Flint was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in Radstock. Florence passed away ten years after her husband; she was laid to rest in the same plot in the summer of 1928.
Howard Edward Parker was born in the summer of 1895 and was one of six children to Edward and Anna Parker. Edward was a tailor from Castle Cary, Somerset, and is was in his home town that he raised his young family. When he left school, Edward worked as his father’s clerk.
War was on the way, however, and Edward was keen to play his part. Unfortunately, details of his military service are limited, but from what little remains, it’s possible to piece some bits together.
Edward joined the Army Ordnance Corps at some point before June 1918. During his time in the army, he rose to the rank of Serjeant, but it is unclear whether he served on home soil or abroad.
The only other certain information is Serjeant Parker died in Southampton on 21st December 1918; the cause of his passing is unclear, and there is nothing in contemporary newspapers to suggest anything out of the ordinary. He was just 23 years of age.
Howard Edward Parker’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family grave in Castle Cary Cemetery.
James Alfred Owen was born on 4th August 1877 and was the middle of three children to James and Sarah Owen. James Sr was a woodman from Herefordshire, who had moved the family to Radnor in mid-Wales.
James Jr’s early life has been lost to time, but by the time he turned 30, he had emigrated to Canada. He settled in the west coast town of Prince Rupert and found work as a salesman. On 28th January 1910 he married Hattie Whidden: the couple went on to have three children – Annie, Louisa and Dorothy.
War was coming to Europe, and James wanted to play his part for King and Country. He enlisted on 4th December 1915, joining the 103rd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. His service records show that he stood 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighed 156lbs (70.8kg). His physical development was recorded as ‘average’, he had a ruddy complexion, brown hair and brown eyes. It was also noted that he had a birthmark in his left groin and his teeth were poor and required attention.
Private Owen departed for England in July 1916 and was assigned to the Oxney Camp in Hampshire. He was promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant and, over the next few years, he remained in England. He was primarily based in barracks at Bramshott – also in Hampshire – though did spend time in Seaford in Sussex.
Sergeant Owen survived the war, but was admitted to the Ripon Military Hospital on 8th February 1919, having contracted bronchitis and malaria. The hospital didn’t have any specific expertise in contagious diseases, so it is likely that his move to Ripon was one stage of his move back to Canada.
Sadly, the conditions proved too much for James. He passed away on 17th February 1919, at the age of 41 years of age.
James Alfred Owen’s body was brought to Castle Cary in Somerset, where his sister Eleanor lived with her family. He was laid to rest in the town’s cemetery.
Frederick Davis was born in Street, near Glastonbury, in February 1876. One of four children, his parents were Frank and Ann. Frank was an agricultural labourer, while Ann worked as a shoe binder in the local Clark’s Factory.
By the 1891 census, Frederick had left school, and had also left home, boarding with a farmer in nearby Walton, where he also worked as a labourer on the farm. Ten years later, he was living with his paternal grandmother and his older brother in the village, with both brothers working as labourers.
During this time, it seems that Frederick had his sights on bigger and better things. Full details are not available, although it appears that he enlisted in the Army and served in India and South Africa between at least 1897 and 1902. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1902 for his actions, although again little information around this survives.
Confirmation of his service overseas at this time appears on Frederick’s later military service records as, in January 1909, he again enlisted in the army. Frederick’s 1909 records show that his next of kin was his wife, Mrs AL Davis, although no marriage documents are apparent. He is also recorded as living in Castle Cary, just to the south of Glastonbury.
This time he was assigned to the 4th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, serving for five years on home soil. During this time, he rose through the ranks from Private to Lance Corporal to Corporal to Sergeant.
When war was declared, the 4th Battalion was sent out to India. Sergeant Davis spent the next eighteen months there, before being moved to the Persian Gulf. He was obviously well thought of as, with the move came a further promotion, this time to Company Sergeant Major.
In June 1917, Frederick returned to England from overseas, and, at the end of his term of service two months later, he was demobbed. He returned home to Somerset, but, within a couple of months, on 2nd October 1917, he passed away. The cause of his death is not recorded, but he was 42 years of age.
Frederick Davis was laid to rest in the peaceful surrounds of the Castle Cary Cemetery.
Charles Franklin Flower was born in Walcot, Bath, at the end of 1879. The middle of five children, his parents were stonemason John Flower and his dressmaker wife, Elizabeth.
John died when his son was only eleven years old, and Elizabeth passed away just two years later, leaving Charles an orphan at just 13 years of age.
He disappears off the radar for a time, only reappearing again when, in the summer of 1895, he enlisted in the 13th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Charles’ service records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.69m) tall, weighed 121lbs (55kg) and had grey eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion. He was also noted as having a tattooed ring on his left ring finger.
After eighteen months on home soil, Private Flower was sent out to the East Indies, where, apart from a short stint back in England, he spent the next twelve years. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1898, but though his own volition, reverted to the rank of Private seven months later. Charles was destined for bigger things, though, and was again promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1900. Over the next few years, he received further promotions – to Corporal in September 1905 and Lance Serjeant eighteen months later.
In the autumn of 1908, Charles returned to home soil, but his military service continued. On 12th April 1909, he married Elizabeth Ann Wills, a gamekeeper’s daughter from Cannington, Somerset. They set up home in Portland, Dorset, where Charles was based, and went on to have a son, Herbert, a year after they married.
By 1910, Charles had again been promoted, and was now a Serjeant. In the next couple of years, the family moved from the Dorset coast to the Somerset town of Frome. Serjeant Flower’s service continued, but he remained on home soil, even when war broke out.
All was not well with Charles’ health, however, and by the summer of 1915, he was admitted to hospital. He was thin and anaemic, with an enlarged liver and an ‘enormously swollen’ spleen. This was discovered to be a malignant growth, and Serjeant Flower was discharged from military service on medical grounds on 20th December 1915. He had been in the Somerset Light Infantry for more than two decades.
Charles Franklin Flower was not to recover from his illness. He passed away at home on 27th February 1916, at the age of just 37 years old. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in Frome.
Bertie Richard Moody was born in Warminster, Wiltshire in April 1885, one of ten children to Joshua and Mary Moody. Joshua was an navy pensioner, who was twenty years older than his wife, and they raised their family in a small house to the west of the town centre.
When he left school, Bertie found work labouring for a man with a traction engine, but, after his parents died – Mary in 1901 and Joshua two years later – he had more need of a trade. The army offered him a life of adventure, and so he enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment. Full details of his military career are lost to time, but by the 1911 census, Private Moody was based in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
War in Europe was looming, and Bertie’s regiment was called back home. By December 1914, however, he was on the front line in France, and, over the next couple of years, earned the Victory and British Medals, the 1915 Star and a promotion to Serjeant for his service.
As time wore on, it was evident that illness was playing a bigger part in Serjeant Moody’s life. He was suffering from diabetes, and the condition led to him being medically discharged from the army in October 1916. Bertie moved to Frome, Somerset, and found work as a labourer.
He still wanted to play his part, and after making something of a recovery, he tried to enlist again, this time in the Royal Air Force. They rejected Bertie because of his condition too, however, so his time in active service came to an end.
At this point, Bertie’s trail goes cold. He died in Frome on 13th December 1918, at the age of 33, and was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in the town.
Archibald Henry Mills was born in the summer of 1895, the oldest of six children to John and Edith. John was a commercial traveller, selling veterinary wares around the country; he was born in Derby, Edith was from Leicester and, for the for the first seven years of their married life they lived in Edith’s home town – this is where Archibald was born. By the turn of the century, however, they had relocated to Somerset, and set up home in Weston-super-Mare.
When he left school, Archibald found work as an errand boy for a local tailor, but change was on the horizon. By the summer of 1914, he had based himself in Nottingham – the reason is lost to time – and this is where he was when he volunteered for military service.
Archibald enlisted as a Private in the Notts and Derby Regiment – the Sherwood Foresters – and was assigned to the 7th Battalion. He was sent to France as part of the 46th Division and, over the next couple of years, he evidently served his regiment well.
In August 1915, Private Mills was promoted to Lance Corporal; three months later he was again promoted, to Corporal. By May the following year, he received another rise, this time to Serjeant. These promotions were against the backdrop of some fierce fighting – the Sherwood Foresters were involved at Hooge, Hohenzollern and Gommecourt, and were briefly sent to Egypt.
At some point during the summer of 1916 – possible at Gommecourt – Archibald was injured, and medically evacuated to the No.2 Western General Hospital in Manchester. Sadly, however, his wounds were to prove too much: Serjeant Mills passed away on the night of 30th September 1916. He was just 21 years old.
The body of Archibald Henry Mills was brought back to Somerset; he was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery of his adopted home town of Weston-super-Mare.