Tag Archives: tragedy

CWG Seaman Alexander Sutherland

Seaman Alexander Sutherland

Alexander Sutherland was born on 20th May 1899 in the Scottish town of Brora. His parents were Peter and Jane Sutherland and he was one of four children, although, tragically, all three of his siblings died before they turned five.

There is little information documented about Alexander’s life: the 1901 census recorded him and his parents living with his paternal grandparents, but give little additional information. Peter died in March 1917, although, again, there is nothing to confirm a cause of death.

The document that provides the most detail about Alexander is his service record. He was too young to enlist when war broke out, but in August 1917, having turned 18, and possibly spurred on by the passing of his father, he joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Seaman. The record shows that he was 5ft 11ins (1.8m) tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a scar on the left side of his neck.

Seaman Sutherlands’s first posting was at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent and he arrived there on 23rd August 1917. The base was a particularly busy place that summer, and Alexander was billeted in some overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of the 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Tragically, Seamen Sutherland was amongst those killed. He was just 18 years old and had been at the base for just ten days, and on active service for just over a fortnight.

Alexander Sutherland’s body was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.

Alexander’s death was particularly tragic for his mother, Jane. She had lost three children early on, and both her husband and last child within six months. Her torment must have been unimaginable.

CWG: Private Frederick White

Private Frederick White

Frederick James White was born in the autumn of 1898, one of four children to Frederick and Emma White. Frederick Sr was a gas fitter from Frome, and the Somerset town was where the family were raised.

As a youngster, Frederick Jr attended the Primitive Methodist Sunday School in the town. He also acted as treasurer for the local YMCA. He was only 15 when war broke out, so was not able to enlist immediately.

However, by 1916 he had joined the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment as a Private and, at some point, was assigned to the Royal North Devon Hussars.

Either way, in whichever regiment he served, Frederick saw fighting in France, and was wounded in the autumn of 1917. Medically evacuated back to England, he was admitted to the temporary military hospital at Collegiate Hall in Sheffield.

The local newspaper shed a little more light into Frederick’s life:

Deceased, who was in the North Devon Hussars, died on November 22nd, at Sheffield, of wounds he received on November 5th. He was brought back to England three weeks to the day from the time he sailed for France.

Somerset Standard: Friday 30th November 1917

Private White’s wounds were too much; he passed away at the age of just 19 years old.

Frederick James White’s body was brought back to his home town. He was laid to rest in the Dissenters’ Cemetery in Vallis Road, Frome.

Frederick Sr and Emma White would have been understandably saddened by their son’s passing. They had four children; their eldest, Florence, had passed away before reaching her first birthday. Their youngest, Reginald, had died in childbirth. Frederick had died as a result of the First World War.

Sadly, the tragedy wasn’t yet over. Their only surviving child, Frederick’s younger brother William, passed away in August 1919, aged just 17 years old.

Frederick Sr and Emma had outlived all of their children, none of whom had reached or survived their teenage years.

CWG: Private Joseph Dodge

Private Joseph Dodge

Joseph Dodge was born in the summer of 1883, and was one of twelve children, including eleven boys. His parents were David and Eliza Dodge, who raised their growing family in Stoke-sub-Hamdon, a few miles to the eats of Yeovil, Somerset.

David was a mason and stone sawyer, but his children went into other roles when they left school; Joseph found work as an agricultural labourer.

In October 1903, Joseph married Elizabeth Ann Case – better known as Annie – who came from just over the Dorset border in the village of Corscombe. Setting up home in Yeovil itself, the couple went on to have two children – both boys – Walter and Norman.

War was coming to Europe, and Joseph was intent on doing his bit. Full service details are not available, but the documents that exist confirm that he enlisted as a Private in the Wiltshire Regiment. Initially assigned to the 1/4th Battalion (which served in Egypt), he transferred to the 2/4th Battalion (which served in India).

Sadly, there is no documentation to give service dates, it is impossible to establish when or if Joseph actually serve in these locations. India seems likely, however, as he later transferred to the 1st Garrison Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment, which was based in Lucknow.

Private Dodge survived the war and came back to England, but seems to have contracted pneumonia on the journey home. Admitted to hospital in Liverpool, the condition sadly got the better of him. He passed away on 16th February 1919, at the age of 35 years old.

Joseph’s body was brought back to the county of his birth; he was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery.

Joseph came from a very patriotic family, and local newspapers early in the war highlighted that many of the Stoke-dub-Hamdon brothers had enlisted to serve King and Country.

At the time of the article, six had enlisted – Thomas, Arthur and Percy (all in the Somerset Light Infantry), Albert (West Somerset Yeomanry), Evan (Royal Navy) and David (Canadian Infantry).

Corporal David Dodge seems definitely to have distinguished himself. Having emigrated to Canada before the war, he returned to Europe when conflict broke out. An article in the Western Chronicle reported that he had “been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery on the field under heavy fire.[Western Chronicle: Friday 15th November 1918]

Amazingly, of the seven brothers who fought in the conflict, only Joseph perished.

An earlier series of articles tells the tragic story of another of Joseph’s siblings. Henry Dodge (known as William) had moved to Senghenydd, to the north of Cardiff, in 1910; mining work was plentiful there and he and a number of his fellow villagers had sought money from the black gold.

On the 14th October 1913, and explosion happened in the mine and that and the resulting fire and subsequent poisonous gas outpouring killed more than 430 miners. Initially reported missing, William was later confirmed dead; he was just twenty years old and left a widow and child.

CWG: Private Percival Peacock

Private Percival Peacock

Percival William Peacock was born in early 1888, the son of Thomas and Louisa Peacock. Little information survives about Percival’s early life, other than that he was one of two children, and that, like his parents, he had been born in Gillingham, Kent. Thomas was a sexton and gravedigger, but Percival found work as a hairdresser.

The 1911 census shows him as head of the household in a cottage in the village of Stone, near Dartford; he was living there with his cousin James and his family.

On 21st April 1913, now living in Kensal Green, North London, Percival married Clara Milton, a labourer’s daughter from just a few doors up.

War was now imminent, but again there is limited information about Percival’s involvement. He did enlist, joining the Labour Corps as a Private, but this seems to have been later in the war. He appears to have served on home soil, although there is nothing to confirm this either way.

The next concrete evidence for Percival is the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects. This confirms that he passed away on 5th December 1918 at the Paddington Military Hospital in London. No cause of death is provided, and the beneficiary given is his father, Thomas. Private Peacock was just 30 years old.

Percival William Peacock was laid to rest in the Grange Road Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent. Hs is commemorated in the nearby Woodlands Cemetery.

Tragedy was not far from the Peacocks’ life. Clara’s mother, Bessie, had passed away just a couple of weeks before Percival. Clara herself died on 5th March 1919, three months after her husband.

CWG: Private Joseph Redgrave

Private Joseph Redgrave

Joseph Redgrave was born at the start of 1897, the youngest of nine children to Charles and Hannah. Tragically, five of Joseph’s siblings passed away and, by the time of the 1911 census, the family were living in a three-roomed cottage within a few minutes’ walk of Charles’ place of work, the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

Sadly, little documentation about Joseph remains. When it comes to his military service, his records confirm that he enlisted prior to November 1916, joining the Army Veterinary Corps as a Private. There is no evidence that he served overseas, but documents place him at the Larkhill Camp just north of Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Tragically, Private Redgrave died from unrecorded causes at the camp’s hospital on 15th May 1917, at the age of just 20 years old.

Joseph’s body was brought back to Kent; he was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham.

CWG: Engine Room Artificer Archibald Callon

Engine Room Artificer Archibald Callon

Archibald Hubert Callon – also known as Archie – was born on 2nd January 1890 in Pembroke Dock, South Wales. One of eight children, his parents were shipwright Michael Callon and his wife, Mary. Soon after Archie was born, Michael moved the family to Gillingham, Kent, presumably as work at the nearby Naval Dockyard was plentiful.

The sea was clearly in his blood as, in 1905, Archie joined the Royal Navy, initially as a Boy Artificer, before taking on full employment there once he reached the age of 18. The 1911 census found him working as an Engine Room Artificer 4th Class, one of a crew of 57 aboard the torpedo destroyer HMS Swale, moored in Grimsby.

Archie slowly rose through the ranks and, by 1913, had become Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class, while serving on HMS Clio. He remained on this vessel through to April 1916, before returning to HMS Pembroke, the shore-based naval establishment in Chatham, Kent.

Sadly, Archie’s time back home was short. The next record for him is stark; it is noted that on 10th July 1916, he committed suicide, during temporary insanity. I have been unable to uncover anything further about his passing. He was just 26 years old.

Archibald Hubert Callon was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, not far from where his family lived.

CWG: Serjeant Major Percy Hawkins

Staff Serjeant Major Percy Hawkins

Percy Harry Hawkins was born in Waltham Green, London, in 1886. One of five children, all boys, his parents were Frederick and Elizabeth Hawkins. Frederick initially worked as a brewer’s collector – collecting rent from tenant pub managers on behalf of the brewery – before working as a tobacconist.

In July 1908, Percy married Gladys Parnell. Sadly, tragedy was to strike and, over the next couple of years both Elizabeth and Frederick passed away in 1909 and 1910 respectively.

By the time of the following year’s census, Percy and Gladys were boarding with a dispensing doctor (or GP), and his wife. Percy listed his occupation as a ‘traveller’, was probably employed as some kind of salesman.

Tragedy was to strike Percy again. Months after the couple had their first child in July 1911, Gladys also passed away, leaving him as a widower and single parent at just 26 years old.

From his later military documentation, it seems that Percy married again in August 1915, this time to a woman called Mildred, and, by September 1919, he had gone on to have three children in total; one boy and two girls.

When war broke out, Percy was quick to enlist. He joined up in Birmingham on 10th August 1914, and gave his profession as a commercial traveller. His records show that he was 28 years and 120 days old, stood 5ft 6ins (1.69m) tall and weighed 131lbs (59.5kg).

After initially joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Private Hawkins was transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps, and was assigned to one of the supply companies.

Over the four years of the war, Percy served on home soil, and was promoted a number of times, rising from Private to Lance Corporal, Staff Sergeant to Quartermaster Staff Sergeant. In September 1917, he was again promoted, this time to Staff Sergeant Major, a position he held for the remainder of the conflict, and on into 1919, when he volunteered for an extra year’s service, rather than being demobbed.

In February 1920, Staff Serjeant Major Hawkins fell ill; he was admitted to the military hospital that had been set up in Brighton Pavilion, Sussex. The diagnosis was heart failure, and, sadly, it was to this that he was to succumb. He passed away on 20th February 1920, aged just 34 years old.

Percy’s family was, by this time, living down the coast in Worthing; his body was brought there for burial and he lies at rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in the town.

CWG: Rifleman Ernest Parsons

Rifleman Ernest Parsons

Ernest Charles Parsons was born in 1881, and was one of six children to bricklayer Robert Parsons and his wife Mary Ann. Robert was a labourer and bricklayer from Watford, while Mary Ann was born in Arundel, West Sussex. The couple moved to where his work was, having their first children in Hertfordshire and Sussex They finally settled in London, which was where Ernest was born.

Where he first left school, Ernest worked as a painter, but soon found a career as a postman., something he would continue to do through to the outbreak of war.

Ernest married Frances Olive Eynott on 28th February 1904; they went on to have a daughter, Doris, the following year. It seems, however, that their marriage was destined to be a short one; Frances passed away within a couple of years.

With a daughter to raise and a living to earn, Ernest married again. Elizabeth Kate Dew was born in Fulham in 1883, and the couple married in the spring of 1907. Again, however, their happiness was to be short; Elizabeth died eighteen months later.

Widowed twice, and with Doris now a toddler, Ernest moved back in with his parents in Chiswick. He continued his work as a postman, but alongside this had been an active volunteer in the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) since early 1908.

Rifleman Parsons’ initial year’s service was extended and extended and, by the time of the outbreak of the First World War, had been serving for some six years.

By 1914, Ernest had found love for a third time, and married Lilian Frances Cromie on 25th March that year. With war imminent, his time was take up more with military duties; while part of the territorial force, Rifleman Parsons had been officially mobilised.

The sudden intermingling of men from different parts of the country in small, packed training camps made the perfect environment for illness and disease to circulate. Ernest had initially contracted bronchitis while on service in 1912; this had dogged him intermittently oved the next few years until, in March 1915, it was serious enough for the Medical Examination Board to declare him unfit for military service.

Ernest moved his family to Worthing, in West Sussex, presumably as the air was fresher there than in the bustling capital. He may also had had family in the area, as his mother had been born just up the road in Arundel. Sadly, though, it seems that his health was not to recover sufficiently, and he passed away on 4th October 1918, at the age of 37.

Ernest Charles Parsons was buried in the Broadwater Cemetery in the town, not far from where his widow and daughter were then living.

Coincidentally, when researching another soldier, Lance Corporal Edgar Godden, this turns out to be the address where he also died, just ten months earlier on 22nd December 1917. There is no apparent other link between the two men.

CWG: Corporal Albert Wall

Corporal Albert Wall

Albert Wall was born in the spring of 1890, one of eight children to James Wall and his wife Louise. James was a mason’s labourer from Taunton, Somerset, and brought his family up in his home town.

Details of Albert’s life are tantalisingly absent. It appears that he had a sense of adventure, and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery when his age allowed. By 1911, he was stationed at Port Royal in Jamaica, and was listed as a Gunner.

Gunner Wall’s involvement with the Royal Garrison Artillery extended into the Great War. He was sent to Egypt in April 1915, and, as part of his service, gained the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star. Albert seems to have been luck in that he saw out the war fairly unscathed, and was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

In the winter of 1918, Albert married Beatrice Salter. The war over, he was subsequently discharged from active service in April 1919.

Life on civvy street was not destined to be a long one, however, as, on 18th November 1919, he passed away from kidney disease. He was just 29 years of age.

Albert Wall was laid to rest in the St James Cemetery in his home town of Taunton.

As a sad footnote to this story, on 5th March 1920, Beatrice gave birth to a little boy, who she called Gordon. Albert was never to see his son.

CWG: Private Charles Criddle

Private Charles Criddle

Charles Pretoria Criddle was born on 18th June 1900, the second of five children to Charles and Mary Criddle. Charles Sr was an army reservist, who worked as a labourer for the local council, and the family lived in Taunton, Somerset.

Sadly, little detail of Charles Jr’s life is documented. The Great War broke out when he was only 14, so was too young to enlist at the beginning of the conflict. However, he did volunteer, albeit later on, and joined the 15th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment at some point in 1918.

Private Criddle’s was one of those lives to be cut tragically short, not by conflict, but by illness. He survived the war, but was subsequently admitted to a military hospital in Brighton, Sussex, where he passed away ‘from disease’ on 7th November 1919. He was just 19 years of age.

Charles Pretoria Criddle lies at rest in the St James Cemetery in his home town of Taunton, Somerset.

Tragedy was to strike again for Charles Criddle Sr. Less than a week after his son had passed, he was called upon to identify the body of his sister, Emma Cable. She had taken her own life after suffering an increasing number of fits over the previous few years.

Emma was a widow, and, since the previous winter, had become increasingly depressed and less physically able, having suffered a debilitating bout of influenza. Early on the morning of Sunday 16th November 1919, she took herself out, dressed in only her nightgown and a pair of boots, and had drowned herself in the River Tone.

At the inquest into her passing, her doctor noted that he had seen her on the previous Thursday “but her condition was not such that he could certify her as insane, but she had been violently hysterical.” [Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 19th November 1919]

The Coroner recorded a verdict that the deceased drowned herself while of unsound mind.

Emma Cable was 52 years old.