06.1.1a World War I A-P
SOMERTON WAR MEMORIALS – WORLD WAR I 

The information about each man is listed alphabetically. Where several men from one family are included, the names are grouped together to reduce repetition.

 

The information was provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; the 1891 and 1901 Census, the Parish Registers and several lists of voters, etc. I was sent many items from Regimental war diaries and histories, newspaper articles and official reports, as well as stories, letters and photographs kept by the families of those who did not come home.

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Walter Charles Adams, 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment, died just before the end of the Great War, on 4th November 1918. At the time his Battalion was involved in the Battle of the Sambre and they captured the village of Ors on that day, but it is not known whether he was killed in action, or died of some other cause.  He is buried at St Souplet in France.

The War Graves Commission does not record a W C Adams from Somerton, but this one was born in Blandford, and lived at Langford (not clear which county, probably Dorset).  Metford Adams had been farming at Etsome since about 1905, but he had come from near Bridgwater, not from Dorset.

 

Ernest Walter Atkinson is recorded in the 1901 Census as being a clerk at the Collar Factory, and living at Vale House in Lower Somerton, with his parents. His father was Foreman at the Collar Factory, and his brother ran a laundry in New Street.  He emigrated in 1908 and was living in Sydney, Australia, as a draper’s assistant, when he enlisted in October 1915. He was serving in the 20th Battalion Australian Infantry when he was killed in action on 9th October 1917.  He is commemorated on the memorial at Passchendaele, in Belgium.  He was 38.  His father, Henry Atkinson, died in January 1918.

 

Private Charles Attwood [or Atwood] had emigrated to Canada before the outbreak of the Great War.  He enlisted in 8th Battalion Manitoba Regiment, in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and was serving in France when he was killed on 25th April 1915.  He was only 21.  His father was the Superintendant of Police at the Somerton Police Station, which was then in the Market Place, in the same building as the Magistrates Court.  The family lived at Walnut House in Long Sutton after Superintendant Attwood retired in about 1920.

 Obituary pasted into a cuttings book kept by Mr Williams: Death of Private Chas. Attwood of the 90th Winnipeg RiflesWe much regret to announce the death of Pte Charles Attwood of the 90th Winnipeg Rifles, eldest son of Superintendent Attwood, of the Somerton Division, and Mrs Attwood. The sad event occurred in the memorable engagement near Ypres, on April 23rd, when the gallant Canadians, heroes to a man, earned undying fame and crowned themselves with glory. Pte Charles Attwood who was 21 years of age, was apprenticed to Mr J G Williams of Somerton, to learn the trade of printing.  At the termination of his indenture he left for Canada where he was filling a lucrative position as a printer. At the outbreak of war Mr Attwood immediately volunteered his services and joined the 8th Battalion 90th Winnipeg Rifles. After a term of training he came over to this country with the first Canadian contingent. Stationed on Salisbury Plain, he obtained leave and visited his parents at Somerton before proceeding to the front with the British Expeditionary Force. He took part in the brilliant action at Neuve Chapelle, being slightly wounded by a splinter, but in his own words when writing home ‘it was not enough to stop me’. Subsequently he was in a very memorable engagement when the Canadians, outnumbered ten to one, recovered their guns, the German barbarians using for the first time asphyxiating gas. It was in this engagement that the gallant young soldier fell in the hour of victory. He was a regular correspondent and his letters were always cheery and full of patriotic spirit that inspires men of the British armies. No letters having been received, Superintendent Attwood communicated with the Headquarters of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in London, and on Tuesday received an official intimation of regret that Charles Attwood had been killed in action near Ypres on the 23rd April. The news was received with much sorrow in Somerton, where Pte Attwood was well-known and popular. He was an excellent athlete and a member of the Somerton Rifle Club. He made many friends in Canada, as well as in his native land. The greatest sympathy is expressed on all hands for Superintendent Attwood, Mrs Attwood and family in their heavy bereavement, but the knowledge that their son fell so gallantly fighting for his country must, to some extent, assuage their grief. 

William Wallace Ayre was 33 when he died in May 1916.  He also served in the Australian Infantry, the 9th Battalion.  He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in France, and the Australian records show that he died of meningitis.  He was the oldest son of William and Blanche Ayre, who farmed at Hurcott, although he had been born at Butleigh and went to school in Burnham.  He emigrated to Australia in 1904 and was living in Queensland when he enlisted in Brisbane in late 1914.

 

Private Victor Brown, 2nd Battalion Worcester Regiment, was the son of William and Annie Brown who lived in West Street, somewhere between Pye Corner and the Royal Oak.  His father was a shoemaker and his mother worked at the Collar Factory.  He died of wounds on 13th August 1918, probably in a Base Hospital in Boulogne.  Because the names of ordinary soldiers who were wounded were not recorded in the War Diaries of the battalions, it is not possible to find out where or when he had been wounded. He may have been a victim of the influenza epidemic of that summer.  He is buried at Terlincthun, just outside Boulogne.  He was 19.

 

W Brown is a puzzle.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission give the nearest possibility as Reginald William George Brown, 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment, who was killed in action on 27th May 1918.  He was 36 and he came from Shaldon near Alton in Hampshire, but his wife lived in Watford, Herts.  Perhaps she had gone back to her parents while he was away at the war.  The Wiltshire Regiment records that he was born in ‘Tapworth’, Somerset (perhaps Tatworth, just south of Chard) and that he lived in Eastleigh, between Winchester and Southampton.  He enlisted in Southampton. The Wiltshire Regiment’s records give his date of death as 28th May, but if men were killed during the night, there might be forgivable confusion about which date was exactly right. The battalion was carrying out routine trench duty at the time.

There are several William Browns recorded in Somerton, including the father of Victor (above), but none of the Williams is known to have died in the Great War.  William Brown, who lived in Kirkham Street in 1914, served in the 18th Battalion Welch Regiment, but his death is not recorded by the War Graves Commission, so he probably survived and came home.

 

Henry Thomas Burfitt died on 1st July 1917, when serving with the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France.  He was 23 when he died.  His Army number, 9162, indicates that he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry in 1911.  The 1st Battalion had been based at Portland, Bordon and Colchester before the outbreak of the Great War.  The Battalion went out to France on 21st August 1914.  Private H T Burfitt was admitted to hospital suffering from rheumatism in November 1914, and he was evacuated to England on 28th November for treatment for frost-bitten feet.  He did not rejoin his Battalion until 14th January 1916  -  more than a whole year recovering from a few weeks in the trenches.

He was reported missing on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916.  Like many others, he was never found. The mud and the explosions from endless artillery shells smashed many bodies to unrecognisable pieces.  The day started with the explosion of about 20 tons of high explosive in a German sap under a British strong point called the Hawthorn Redoubt.  This was near the Quadrilateral, a wood which the Germans had fortified as part of their front line.  In spite of the shattering effects of the explosion, the Battalion advanced under rifle and machine-gun fire from the flanks. There was little cover as the men advanced up an open slope to the top of a ridge, where they were stopped by barbed wire.  What was left of the Battalion attacked the Quadrilateral and reached the German trenches there.  There was a fierce but confused fight using hand grenades in the German trenches but, because of the very high casualties, there were not enough Somersets left to take and hold the position.

Henry Thomas Burfitt was the son of Thomas and Rose Burfitt, who lived in the Langport Road when he was born in 1894. His father was a general labourer and the family later lived at No 3 Bartletts Row.

 George William Burroughs was a Pioneer in the Royal Engineers, when he died on 8th April 1917.  He was 18 and he is buried in Somerton cemetery. The grave is just inside the cemetery in Area A, to the left of the central path. It is accompanied by the other two WW1 War Graves Commission headstones, but is made of local stone with a cross that has fallen.

He was the son of Stratton Burroughs, who from 1902 until 1919 had a saddlers shop in the Market Place. He died in 1921 and his widow lived at the Scott-Gould almshouses in North Street, until she was moved to a geriatric hospital near Taunton in 1948.

George William Burrough’s niece recorded that George was very clever. He attended Langport Grammar School and the family has book prizes for English (1914), Mathematics (1915 and 1916) and Science (1916). They also have some medals for sport. Both George and his brother Victor learned to play their own violins and they sang in the church choir. George won a scholarship, bursary or certainly a place to study at Bristol University. His parents refused to let him have a commission as they believed he stood a better chance of survival as an ordinary soldier than as an officer.

His death certificate shows he died at Pershore (Worcs). He was going to be sent abroad and was given a yellow fever jab which caused cerebro-spinal fever from which he died a month later. Many others of his regiments died of the same cause.

 

Reginald James Case was a private in the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment.  He was 19 when he died on 3rd April 1918, on an ‘ordinary’ day in the trenches of Passchendaele in the Ypres Salient.  The Battalion’s War Diary says no more than: ‘2 killed & 1 wounded - intermittent shelling.’  He is buried at the Oxford Road Cemetery at Ypres in Belgium.

He was the son of William Winford Case and Ellen Case, and there is a memorial to him in Somerton Methodist Church in West Street. 

William Winford Case, his father, was a carpenter, living in West Street. His aunts, Miss Louisa and Miss Mary Jane Case, kept a drapers shop in the early years of the 20th century, until about 1936.  They made wedding dresses for local brides, as well as ordinary dresses and furnishings. Their shop was in West Street, about opposite to the entry to the Brewery, which is now the shopping precinct, and it is now a delicatessen. William Winford Case moved to Highbridge between the wars, and he became an auctioneer for Cox & Cox.

 

Captain E M Cunningham, MC is named as ‘Killed in Action’ on the Roll of Honour in Somerton Church, but his name not on the Memorial. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that he was a captain in the 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, and that he died on 5th August 1917, aged 24, at a time when he was serving with the 9th Battalion of his regiment. He is buried in the British cemetery at St Nicholas, Pas de Calais.

His Military Cross was awarded when he was still a Lieutenant detached from the 2nd to the 9th Battalion of his Regiment, but there is no record of the event in the Battalion records.  The citation reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry. He re-organised the bombing squads of another regiment after their leader became a casualty. His coolness and courage were most praiseworthy and he kept up the spirits of his men throughout the worst period of the bombardment.”

It may be that the recommendation was made by the unidentified ‘other regiment’ and so did not appear in the 9th Battalion papers, and it is not possible to say when this gallant action took place. His own Battalion may not have known about it until the award appeared in the London Gazette on 30th March 1916.

Captain Cunningham returned to the 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, possibly after recovering from wounds, on 1st June 1917, and by 7th June was commanding No 1 Company.  By 30th June he was Acting Adjutant and was responsible for writing the Unit’s War Diary, along with his other duties, from then until his death.  He was killed by a sniper, presumably during a visit to the trenches, as the Adjutant usually worked at Battalion HQ a little distance behind the front line.  It appears that the Battalion took some consolation from the fact that the German sniper who killed Capt Cunningham was hit by one of our snipers the next day.

No Cunninghams are mentioned in the 1901 Census for Somerton or in Kelly’s Directory for 1914, but the electoral roll for 1914 shows a Cuthbert Cunningham living with the Hall-Stephensons at Somerton Court, and he also appears as an absent voter in 1918, when he was serving as a captain in the Royal Engineers, seconded from the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.  In 1913, the baptism took place of a baby William Glencairn Cunningham whose parents were living at Somerton Erleigh, with Mrs Phipps-Hornby.  Violet, the wife of Cuthbert Cunningham, was a sister of Captain Phipps-Hornby.  Capt E M Cunningham’s father was the vicar of Marden and Chirton, near Devizes, Wilts; he had held the living from 1898 and was still there in 1912.

 

Frances Arthur Dickinson, FRGS, was a Major in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.  He was 41 when he died of wounds received at Dickebusche in Flanders, on 11th April 1915. He is buried at Kingweston, the home of the Dickinson family, and remembered in Somerton on the memorial as well as on a panel in the east window of the church.

Francis Arthur Dickinson was born in February 1874; he was educated at Charterhouse and Sandhurst. He joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, and was frequently seconded to other units, so he took part in many campaigns in the Empire.  He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a first class shot in pursuit of Big Game, on which he was a great authority.  Due to this experience, after the end of the Boer War, he was selected as Winston Churchill's escort when he went to British East Africa as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.  The expedition was very successful; each man wrote a book on it, Churchill’s entitled "My African Tour", and Francis Dickinson’s "Big Game Shooting on the Equator". His father, Arthur Dickinson, lived at The Mount, Parsonage Hill, Somerton, and died in 1938.

His brother, Stephen Carey Dickinson, wrote:  “Frank returned to England to get married just before the outbreak of the 1914 Great War.  Then he proceeded to France with his Regiment as Second-in-Command.  He was mortally wounded at Dickebusch in Flanders and was moved to Boulogne hospital where he died.  His body was moved to England and I saw that the King’s Colour was put on his coffin in the boat, but I was not granted leave to be present at his funeral at Kingweston.  His grave is just by the church door with his service record on the cross.  Dorothy, his wife, had a son which was unfortunately born dead owing to the tragedy of her husband’s death.”

Frank and Arthur both married daughters of the Phipps family in Wiltshire. They were related also to the Pretor-Pinney family and to the Goughs.  Captain Phipps-Hornby placed a window in the north aisle of the church, in thanksgiving for his safe return from the War;  they lived at Midney during the Great War.

 

Albert George Donovan won the Military Medal before he died just a few days before the end of the war.  He was in 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, whose records show that he joined the battalion in France on 4th August 1916.  He was sometimes in trouble, and in early 1918 was sentenced to 42 days Field Punishment No 1 (a very severe punishment), but what he had done is not recorded.

In October 1918, he had just returned from a fortnight’s leave when the 1st Battalion was sent forward from Cambrai to take part in the crossing of the River Selle. It was open country with no cover, the bridges had been destroyed and the German machine-gunners were doing their best to delay the advance of the Allied troops.  The Battalion at first acted as a Service unit, bringing up supplies to those in the front line. Then they attacked and took the village of Haspres and pursued the enemy to the river. They built three bridges under murderous machine-gun fire from the slope on the far side, crossed over and found the enemy had split up and made fortified posts. So the Somersets divided into Sections and fought individual actions, eventually driving the Germans back. However, the price was high: eight officers and 149 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. There were many awards for the Battalion, and Private Donovan was recommended for the Military Medal on the day after the Battalion was withdrawn, but by then he was on his way to a hospital in Rouen, where he died of bronchial pneumonia on 1st November 1918. He is buried in the St Sever cemetery at Rouen. He was 31.

Albert George Donovan was born in Somerton in 1889, the son of an Irishman who worked at Somerton Brewery.  In 1901 his mother was living at St Cleers and working at the Collar Factory. His older sister was there too, and he was still at school. By 1918 Mrs Donovan lived at 7 Quidham Place, Yeovil.

 

Samuel Drew was a tailor who had a shop in West Street. The family had come from Liskeard in Cornwall.  Samuel’s wife, Kate, lived in a house called ‘The Laurels’ in Bow Street, Langport, so perhaps they had a shop there as well.

Samuel Drew died of wounds on 29th January 1917, when he was 38.  He was serving with the 6th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry.  Conditions in the trenches at that time were very miserable.  The War Diary records that on the 26th January there was a heavy artillery bombardment on the trenches occupied by the Battalion.  Five men were killed and two severely injured.  It is likely that Samuel Drew was one of those two and that he died three days later in the near-by Casualty Clearing Station at Wanquentin, where he is buried.

 

Edward Francis Drewitt was 37 when he died in France on 17th April 1917:  he is buried at Longueness, near St Omar, where there were the Head Quarters of the British Expeditionary Force and many hospital facilities.  He was serving with the 2/8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, and the records in that Regiment’s archives show that Private Drewitt had first enlisted in the Wiltshire Regiment.  The date of his enlistment is not known but his original number, 5027, indicates that he was a pre-war soldier.  At some time during 1914 - 1917 he was badly wounded and, after spending time in hospital, he was sent to a training and draft finding unit. In the Spring of 1917 he was sent to the Lancashire Fusiliers who, like all units on the Western Front, needed a constant supply of replacement soldiers, and he was given a new number, 307170.  He was killed by shellfire whilst moving into the trenches at Givenchy on the night of 17-18th April 1917.  The War Diaries state that four men were wounded and two of them died as a result of their injuries.

Private Drewitt was born at Holt, near Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire, and he enlisted at Newport, in Pembrokeshire, in West Wales.  His widow, Mary Drewitt, lived in Sutton Road, Somerton.  However, there is no mention of either of them in the usual lists and sources. Perhaps she had lived in Somerton before her marriage, but I have not found her marriage listed so I do not yet know her maiden name.

 

Francis George Edwards was a Lance-Corporal in 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. He was the son of George and Emily Edwards, who lived in Langport Road.  He died of wounds on 1st April 1918, and he is buried at Duisans, Etrun, France.  He was 21 years old.  His father and brother were thatchers, whose memory is preserved in the name of a small group of houses called The Thatch, in Behind Berry near the Fire Station. The road is named after the thatched shed in which they kept their stock and their bee-hives. The family had moved into Somerton in the late 19th century and are not related to the other Edwards on the memorial.

The Somerset Light Infantry records show that Francis George Edwards went out to France in August 1916 and joined the 1st Battalion on 13th August, on transfer from the West Somerset Yeomanry. He seems to have been in quite a lot of trouble. He was awarded 10 days Field Punishment No 2 for insolence to an NCO on 6th October 1916, followed by 14 days Field Punishment No 2 on 1st January 1917, and a further 7 days Field Punishment No 2 on 27th February 1917.

He was admitted to 42 Casualty Clearing Station with a gunshot wound to his right eyebrow on 17th June 1917. At the time the Battalion was in the front line on the south side of the River Scarpe, south of Roux.  The War Diary recorded that on 17th, an enemy post by the river was shot up by several machine gun teams;  2/Lt Sylvester and one man were wounded. It is presumed that that man was Francis George Edwards.

He rejoined the Battalion on 15th July. He was granted leave for ten days in September 1917, and was promoted  Lance-Corporal before Christmas.  On 29th March 1918, the Battalion was defending the River Scarpe against the German offensive.  He was probably in a party sent across open ground to try to eject some Germans from a trench they had captured from the British. They were machine-gunned and 27 soldiers were killed or wounded. Two officers were killed while trying to get the wounded brought back to the British lines. G F Edwards received a gunshot wound to his left arm and was admitted to No 12 Field Ambulance.  He died of his wound in No 8 Casualty Clearing Station on 1st April 1918.  Duisans cemetery is beside that Clearing Station.

 

George Francis Edwards was only 19 when he was killed in action near Ypres.  He had joined the 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment in November 1916, and went into hospital with measles, a very serious disease in those days, in late February 1917.  On 7th June 1917, the first day of the Battle of Messines, he was killed in action, and his body was never found in the dreadful mud and the prolonged shelling of the area.  He is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

He was born in Lullington, near Frome, the son of Henry Edwards, who by 1914 lived in Roche Bridge Cottage, Sutton Road, and worked at Somerton railway station.  His brother was killed about a year later.

 

Sergeant Henry James Edwards was in the 5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment, and was 23 when he died on 1st October 1918, in India.  He had enlisted early in the war at Trowbridge and went out to India in July 1915.  He died of influenza during the world-wide outbreak in the summer of 1918.  His name is recorded on the Kirkee 1914-18 monument, which suggests that his grave is elsewhere in India.  His parents, Henry and Eliza Edwards, lived at Roche Bridge Cottage in Sutton Road, and his father was a packer on the railway.  His brother, George Francis, had been killed a year earlier at Ypres.

 

The Edwards brothers were not related to Francis George Edwards, who is also named on the east face of the memorial.

 

Richard Henry Lincoln Elwes almost certainly died in 1914, before he could join the British Army; the entry on the brass plate in Somerton church says he was: “Killed in Rhodesia by natives while on his way to join HM Forces."  He was 23 at the time and was a nephew of the Pretor-Pinneys.  His father was Philip Elwes, who ran the Brewery on the site of the present shopping precinct opening off West Street.  His mother was Hester Lucy Pretor-Pinney, sister of the Pretor-Pinneys at Somerton Erleigh. The Elwes family lived in Monteclefe House in Kirkham Street, with the school founded by another Pretor-Pinney sister in their garden.  The Elwes family had lands in North Devon and they moved there in 1921 when Philip Elwes inherited the estate.

 

James William Farrell was a policeman at Somerton Police Station in the Market Place before he joined the Army. He became a bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery and died at Mendinghem in Belgium on 10th June 1917, a few days after the Battle of Messines. Mendingham was a Field Ambulance and Casualty Clearing Station close behind the front line. He was married to Gladys Lucy Palmer whose father was a carpenter and lived in Northfield, and their baby daughter was christened in October 1916. PC Farrell’s age is unknown but he was probably quite young. His widow was only 23 in 1919, when she married James William Fenn, a friend and colleague of her late husband. They moved to Wales where Mr Fenn became the custodian of Carmarthen Castle.

 

Samuel James Fevin was part of a draft to join 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry in September 1916, and he served in C Company. C Company was on the left flank of the second wave when 7th Battalion attacked Langemarck on 16th August 1917. Private Fevin probably died when they attacked the second objective and came under heavy machine-gun fire from buildings at the north-west end of the village, as well as sniping from the right flank. His body was not recovered, and he is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium.

Although his age and next-of-kin are not given by the War Graves Commission, they do know that he came from Somerton.  There were several Fevin families in Somerton in the later years of Queen Victoria; one group were farmers in Sutton Road and St Cleer’s, and another group lived in Northfield, where there is still a Feiven household.  Samuel James Fevin belonged to the Sutton Road branch of the family. One of his nephews recalled a family story that he had emigrated to Canada before 1900 but was in England visiting his parents when conscription was introduced in 1916. There was a Court Case at Somerton Magistrates’ Court, which declared Jim Fevin was eligible for military service, so he was taken into the Army against his will, and a year later he was killed in France. Unfortunately, the records of the Magistrates Court no longer exist, so it has not been possible to find any more details of the case. His brother was killed in the 1939-45 War.

 

Lance-Corporal Percy Garland, MM, according to the War Graves Commission, was in 3rd Dragoon Guards. He died on 24th March 1918, and is remembered on the Pozieres memorial in France. The War Graves Commission does not have any information about his home background, but in 1901 there were Garlands at Melbury, on the road to Long Sutton. James Garland was a shepherd with several children, but no ‘Percy’. Another shepherd called Thomas Garland was living at Hurcott, but had only a single daughter.  So the War Graves Commission cannot be sure that their Percy Garland is the one we are looking for. I have not been able to discover how he won his Military Medal.

 

The Gaylard brothers, William Charles and Frederick George, were farm labourers at Catsgore and had another brother, Francis, who was also in the Forces, but he survived the war in spite of losing a leg.  The family still have the ‘death pennies’ for the two who died in the Great War, bound in silver and clearly much treasured by their mother as long as she lived. She had also kept postcards and letters from these two sons.

 

William Charles Gaylard originally joined the Somerset Light Infantry, but was in the 23rd Battalion London Regiment when he was taken prisoner. Because ordinary soldiers’ names are not given in casualty lists, it is not possible to find out when or where he had become a prisoner of war.  The family have a letter written by him from a Prisoner of War camp at Gũstrow in eastern Germany, almost into Poland. In the letter, dated 24th June 1918, he says he is well and looking forward to getting home.  The German postmark is for 15th August 1918, so there was a considerable delay in getting the letter sent.  Another mystery is that William Charles is known to have died on 19th August 1918, only four days after the letter was posted at Gũstrow, and he is buried at Valenciennes in France. He was 24, and it is likely that he died of influenza. Prisoners were usually buried at the camp where they died, but after the end of the War, many were brought to large cemeteries.  On the other hand, he might have been among a group of prisoners who were to be exchanged.

 

Frederick George Gaylard was a private in 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers. He died of wounds on 19th October 1918, aged 19, and is buried at Vadencourt in France As he enlisted in a Welsh regiment in Cardiff, he may have emigrated to South Wales, as many others did at that time, to become a coal-miner.

 

The Gillett family lived at Roche Bridge Cottage on Sutton Road. Edward Gillett, father of the two brothers remembered on the War Memorial, was a carter on one of the nearby farms. His wife was Alice, and they had several children as well as the boys.

 

Bombadier William Henry Gillett of 106th Brigade Royal Field Artillery was born in 1896, He died on 22nd April 1917 during the battle of Arras, and is buried at Maroc in France.  He was 22 years old. 

 

Frederick Charles Gillett was 19 when he was drafted to join the 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry on 21st August 1917, a few days after Samuel James Fevin had been killed with that unit, so possibly he was part of a reinforcement draft to make up the battalion to full strength.  He was posted to B Company and a month later he was killed by a bomb dropped from a German aeroplane.  He is buried at Bleuet Farm, near Ypres in Belgium, the site of a Casualty Clearing Station.

 

John Bloomfield Gough is named on the Roll of Honour in Somerton church but not on the War Memorial.  There is a panel dedicated to his memory in the east window of the church.  He served as a lieutenant in “D” Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, and died on 8th September 1914. He was 28, and is buried at Perreuse Chateau in France.

He was the son of Col Bloomfield Gough who was in the 9th Lancers, and he lived at Brookhampton House, North Cadbury, with his wife, Marian Ethel.  Marian was the sister of Major Geoffrey Phipps-Hornby, who was living at Somerton Erleigh in 1914. Major Phipps-Hornby was in 9th Lancers, a captain, and he gave a window to Somerton Church in thanksgiving for his safe return from the war. It is in the north aisle.

Both families were friends of the Pretor-Pinneys and the Dickinsons, and related to the Cunninghams.

 

T Griffen is a puzzle. His name is spelt ‘Griffin’ on the brass plate in Somerton church, and the War Graves Commission knew very little about him, so why he is remembered in Somerton is not clear. He may have been in 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers), and died on 17th May 1917;  that soldier is buried at Templeux-le-Guerard in France.  But a list of Somerset men who died in WWI, taken, I think, from ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’, says that this man came from Evercreech, so he is unlikely to be remembered in Somerton. Another possible man recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission seems to be a Tom Uriah Griffin, a Private in 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, who died on the Somme aged 19, on 1st July 1916. His family lived in Trull, near Taunton, so the Somerton connection is missing.

In the 1891 Census, a James Griffin lived at the bottom of Horsemill Lane. He was manager of the Gasworks and he and his wife came from Essex. He had two children, James T, aged 6, and Letitia, aged 1. Both children were born in Somerton.  The family had left Somerton before the 1901 Census.  If T Griffen is this boy, he would have been 32 when he died, and someone in the village must have kept in touch with the family for at least twenty years after they left.

However, on the Roll of Honour in the church, the name is Griffin ‘J’, not ‘T’;  it is possible that he is a John Griffin, a Welshman from Pontypridd who worked on the railway, and who married Florence Louisa Strang of Somerton in May 1913, whose sister was married to William Joseph Lawrence, who is also named on the War Memorial. John Griffin was 26 at the time of his marriage. Unfortunately, the only John Griffin recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission came from Bristol. So T or J Griffen remains unidentified.

 

William James Hamlett had been a quarryman in Somerton, the son of a baker.  He became a Lance-Corporal in the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry.  He was 27 when he died of wounds on 6th July 1917, and he is buried at St Sever, Rouen in France. He must have been brought to a hospital there from the battles on the Somme. The records of his Battalion show they had lost about half their number as casualties on 1st July, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme; it is likely that he was wounded on that day.

His wife was Elizabeth Hamlett, who lived in a cottage at Pound Pool;  they had been married since 1912.

 

Reuben Henry James Hannam was in 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry and he died on 28th April 1917. He is commemorated on the Arras memorial in France, his body not being found for burial. He was 19.  The War Diary of the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry records that 18 officers and 296 other ranks became casualties in the week 20-28th April 1917, during the Battle of Arras. He is remembered on the Charlton Mackrell memorial as well as at Somerton.

His father was a sawyer from Charlton Mackrell where Reuben was born, and they lived in Lower Somerton during the First World War. They had moved to Etsome Hill by 1918.  A brother who survived the war went to South Wales as a miner for a while, then came back and farmed at Compton Dundon from 1939 until he died in 1985. Some members of the family still live in Street.

 

Norman Harding was the son of Frederick George and Harriet Harding, who lived at the Mills at Somerton Erleigh. The mills were water-driven and had oil-fired steam engines as well. The family worked the mills from 1894 until after 1931. Norman was the younger of two sons and was 19 when he died on 13th March 1918, while serving with 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment. The Regiment did not record the names of those wounded in the trenches, so it is not possible to know where and when he was wounded;  not long before his death or he would have been moved to a Base Hospital.  He is buried at Ypres Reservoir cemetery in Belgium.

His father was the Treasurer of the Somerton War Memorial Committee 1918-1921, and put up a marble memorial to his son in the nave at Somerton church.

 

Robert Thomas Hartland was in the 6th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment. He died on 23rd August 1918,  when his Battalion was in action helping to clear Thiepval Ridge and suffered many casualties, and he is buried at Pozieres in France.

His father was Frederick Hartland, a gardener;  in 1891 the family lived in Northfield, and later moved to Kirkham Street. Robert was born in 1899, the only son in a family of six children, three older sisters and two younger. Frederick Hartland had been batman to Philip Elwes in the Boer War and stayed with the family afterwards. Several of his daughters went with the Elwes family to Devon in 1921.

 

Robert Edward Nichols Hunt was a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was 24 when he died a few days before the Armistice on 4th November 1918. He is buried in Somerton cemetery, so perhaps he was invalided home and died here. His parents and several brothers and sisters lived in Kirkham Street, His father, Charles Hunt, was a shoemaker in a family firm in Broad Street, which continued from as early as 1866 up to about 1931.

 

Joseph Aubrey Johnson was in the 7th Battalion Rifle Brigade. He was a prisoner of war when he died in Berlin on 1st August 1917, and he is buried there. He was born in Bristol, but when he enlisted, he was living at Somerton Lodge at the entrance to Somerton Randal (The Erleigh), presumably employed on the Pretor-Pinney estate.  He was married to Mabel May Johnson. His name appears on the list of Absent Voters for 1918, so his death may not have been reported in England by then. There are still members of his family living in Somerton and in Bristol.

 

William Joseph Lawrence was born in Somerton, but he enlisted at Bridgend in South Wales, and joined the 2nd Battalion of the South Wales Borderers.  He died on the Gallipoli expedition, on 28th April 1915, and is remembered on the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey.

He was married in Somerton in December 1908 to Emily, the daughter of a shoemaker called Andrew Strang of Somerton, and so was the brother-in-law of John Griffin, who lived in Pontypridd.  William Joseph Lawrence was a labourer at that time and already 35. Their first child, John Andrew, was born on 15th April 1909.  There is no mention of this branch of the large Lawrence family in the 1901 Census, nor were any more of this couple’s babies christened in Somerton, so perhaps they moved to South Wales to find work.

 

Lance-Corporal Narcot Lee was born in Lower Somerton in 1887; his father was a shoemaker, and it was a large family.  By 1914, Narcot Lee was already widowed and in that year he married Gertrude Sheppard, a Somerton girl, who gave birth to a baby girl, Florence, in December 1914.  He served in 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, and died on 27th June 1916, aged 29.  He is buried at Vlamertinghe in Belgium.

The Somerset Light Infantry records show that Narcot Lee must have been with the 7th Battalion when it moved to France in July 1915.  He was appointed Lance-Corporal on 3rd September 1915, and suffered a minor shrapnel wound to his forehead on 11th November of that year.  He was one of three men wounded by enemy shell-fire when the Battalion was being relieved in the Gonnelieu Sector.  He was returned to duty the same day, so his wound cannot have been serious.

The Battalion Muster Roll for 27th June 1916 records that he was one of four soldiers killed by shell-fire on an ‘ordinary’ day in the trenches.  One shell killed four men who were in a dugout in Potijze Wood.  There were no other casualties that day, but an officer and seven more men were killed the day after.

 

William Charles Lewis is mentioned only on the Roll of Honour in the church, his name marked with a cross to show he had died. The War Graves Commission record that he was born in Street and married to a woman, Jessie Mary Lewis, in Somerton, who lived in New Street after the War. He had been a member of 130 Field Company, Royal Engineers, when he was taken prisoner on an unknown date, and he died on 5th May 1918, in a prisoner-of-war camp somewhere in Germany. His body was later brought to Cologne and buried there with many other POWs and service-men who died while on active service on the Rhine between 1918 and 1921.

There had been Lewises in Somerton for many years but there is no direct connection with the Street family. Perhaps his wife was a local Somerton girl, and we may eventually be able to connect her with other Somerton families.

 

Samuel A William Lock (also spelt Locke) was the son of James and Elizabeth Lock, who lived in West Street. James was a shoemaker, and his wife was a Londoner, their first child being born in Islington in 1882. By 1901 they were back in Somerton with seven children, the last five having been born here. William was the sixth of the family.  S A William Lock joined the 17th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and died on 10th July 1916.  He was 20 years old and is remembered on the Thiepval memorial in France.

The 10th July 1916 was one of the major engagements of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the Great War. Several battalions were involved in trying to capture Mametz Wood, a difficult operation for the attacking troops had to advance down a steep open hillside towards a wood full of Germans. There was a cutting or defile half way down, which gave some shelter for re-grouping and for the wounded, and a railway ran across the lower open slope before the wood could be reached.  It was a tangled over-grown plantation, with defensive trenches dug through it, and the fighting was very difficult because of the obscurity, and the machine guns in the darkness. The 17th Battalion was not brought in until the second phase, in the afternoon, when they cleared the southern portion of the wood.  Then the British artillery were asked to shell the Germans in the northern half of the wood, but the shells struck the tree-tops and many Welsh Fusiliers were killed or wounded by the falling shells and shrapnel.  During the night, there was much confusion and firing at any noise, so some men were killed by ‘friendly’ fire.  When the Welsh Brigade was withdrawn next day, the 17th Battalion had lost over 200 men, 197 of them being ‘other ranks’.

This was the same day as Lt-Col Pretor-Pinney was in action with 13th Battalion Rifle Brigade at Contalmaison, within ear-shot of Mametz Wood.

 

Captain Harold Henry Martyn, of the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, was the son of James Martyn, a draper and outfitter, who had a house and shop in the Market Place at Somerton from 1894 to 1919.  Harold was the youngest of five children.

He seems to have been in the 3rd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment before he was posted abroad, but he joined the 2nd Battalion in France in June 1916.  He was sent on machine-gun training and for a time was the Battalion’s Machine-Gun Officer.  He was in command of A Company at the end of 1916, promoted Lieutenant in July 1917 and Captain in November, when he was transferred to D Company.  He went missing on 21st March 1918, during the Great German Offensive, and was eventually presumed to have been killed in action on that day.  Another officer and a soldier saw him fall, but their accounts of the event have not survived.  He has no known grave, but his name is recorded on the Pozieres memorial in France.

 

Percy Victor Mundy lived in Somerton, but was apparently not born here. There were several Mundy (sometimes spelt Munday) families in Somerton, but Percy Victor is not listed among them in 1901. More of them lived in Long Sutton so he may have come from there. However, in 1916, the baptism of his son, Cyril George, is recorded, giving Percy’s occupation as a labourer at Hurcott. His wife was called Beatrice.  He was in 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, and died on 20th September 1917, the first day of the Battle of Cambrai. He is remembered on the Tyne Cott memorial at Zonnebeck in Belgium.

 

H J Norris and P Norris were brothers. The family lived at Bowers Hill, which is beyond the lower end of Station Path, over the Mill Stream.  In 1901 there were eight children, and their father was caretaker of the Somerton Waterworks. In 1891 he is recorded as being an engine-driver, presumably of an agricultural steam engine. He came from Chilthorne Domer.

 

Henry James Norris was born in Somerton in 1885.  Henry was caretaker at Lytes Cary pumping station from 1901 to 1917, the caretaker’s cottage being built for him in 1915. In 1914 he married Ada Miriam Jarvis, the daughter of a blacksmith.  In spite of strenuous efforts to save him by local councillors and the Water Board, he was conscripted in 1917 and was posted to the Royal Navy, in the Volunteer Reserve. He was 32 when he died of wounds in January 1918 at Rouen, where there was a large military hospital.  Some naval units became land forces during the Great War, and there were naval ships in the River Seine upstream from Le Havre, which was an essential port for troops and supplies for the Western Front.  He is buried in St Sever cemetery at Rouen in France. He is remembered on the Charlton Mackrell memorial as well as in Somerton, and a photograph of him hangs in the Reading Room there.

His widow with her baby daughter, born in the same month that her father died, moved to Lynch Cottage at the end of North Street when he went into the Navy, to allow his brother Charles Norris to take over care of the Waterworks. She eventually returned to her family in Marnhull.

 

Percy Norris was in the Wiltshire Regiment and was brought home to Bridgwater Hospital after being wounded in late 1917 or early 1918, although it is not possible to say when or where.  He died in hospital on 5th April 1918. He was 24, the youngest child of the family.  He is buried in Somerton cemetery beside the Burroughs memorial.

 

Percy James Nutt was in 7th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), and he died on 9th May 1916. He is buried at the Cabaret Rouge cemetery at Souchez in France. He had probably been wounded in the Battle of Arras in April 1916.  He was the son of James Snook Nutt and his wife, Hannah. They lived in North Street and ran a currier business, dressing and selling leather, in West Street. The family also made mineral water, at premises in New Street, and some of them were farmers. Percy was born in 1885, so he was 32 when he died.

 

John Peddle was in the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, and was killed in action on 25th September 1915, when he was 25.  The 8th Battalion sailed from Southampton to France on 9th September 1915, and they went into action for the first time at 7.00 p.m. on 25th September, the day John was killed.  There are no mentions of casualties in the 8th Battalion records for this day, although both B and C Companies were fighting on the road from Hulloch to Lens that evening and night.  He is remembered on the Loos memorial in France.

He was the son of John and Mary Peddle, and he was born in Somerton, although he enlisted in Bridgend, South Wales. There were many Peddle families in Somerton at that time, and for many years before. In 1891 John’s family lived in the Langport Road. His father was a road labourer. By 1901 John’s mother was widowed and she worked at the Collar Factory with her two daughters. John was then 11 and still at school. He had probably migrated to South Wales to find work by 1914.