Being stories that I may stumble across during my perambulations around cemeteries near and far

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Worle at War - Thomas Wood

Worle is a parish and village on the road from Bristol to Weston-super-Mare, with a station in the village on the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Light Railway and another station 1 mile south of the village on the Great Western Railway.  The village is 2 ½ miles east of Weston-super-Mare and 135 ½ miles from London. (Kelly’s directory 1914)

In 1914 the men of the village enlisted for military service.  The war memorial lists the names of the 28 who died - amongst these is the name T. Wood of the Royal Defence Corps.

Worle War Memorial
Thomas Wood had been born and raised in Clifton, Bristol and as a teenager found work as a butcher’s assistant in the centre of Bristol.   A few weeks before his 20th. birthday in 1881 Thomas enlisted as a Gunner with the Royal Artillery and within a few months found himself on the way to India where he served for almost 4 years.  His next posting was to Aden where he spent a year before returning to India for another 18 months.   

With grateful thanks to Thomas' Great Niece

Thomas returned to the UK in 1888 and married Leah Barrett in Bristol in 1894.  The couple had a son and three daughters before Thomas was pensioned from the military, being discharged at Weston-super-Mare in December 1904.  During his service Thomas had risen from Gunner to Company Sergeant Major and was held in high esteem by his colleagues.  Much of Thomas’ later service had been in Ireland where he picked up “the brogue” and was described as having “a way wid him”.   

With grateful thanks to Thomas' Great Niece
In retirement Thomas returned to his previous trade of butcher and the 1911 census shows the family living and working at The Parade, Worle.   When war broke out Thomas joined the Royal Defence Corps and was deployed guarding sensitive establishments on the home front.  Much of this service was near to home at Weston, Portishead and Sharpness but there is also mention of “other establishments”. 

1916 saw Zeppelin air-raids on London.  On the night of 23rd/24th. September bombs rained down on south London killing 7 and wounding 27 in Streatham.  More bombs were dropped on Brixton before the airship crossed the Thames and targeted Leyton.  Several airships were brought down by anti-aircraft fire.  

"The End of the 'Baby-Killer'" by Unknown. 
File created by Jeff Lea - British postcard. 
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -  

It is likely that Thomas saw action in the suburbs of London during the autumn of 1916.  In mid-November Thomas developed an acute kidney infection and was admitted to the 4th. London General Hospital, Denmark Hill.  After an illness lasting 7 days he died on 21st. November.

Thomas was given a full military funeral in the village of Worle.  A gun carriage bore his coffin draped with Union Jack on which lay his cap and sidearms.  The military escort was provided by men from Thomas’ Company and the bearers were six of his fellow sergeants.  The cortege was joined by Special Constables of Worle, National Reserve members, Boy Scouts & members of the Masters Butchers Association.  All blinds along the route were closed but the streets were lined with people.  St. Martin’s Church was packed and the congregation spilled out into the churchyard.   
©Christine M. Thomas
After the service the firing party, comprising a sergeant, a corporal and 18 men of Thomas’ Company fired three volleys and then buglers sounded the Last Post.

Thomas was the only serviceman to be buried in St. Martin’s Churchyard during the First World War*

Leah lived to the grand age of 95 and is buried a mile down the road from Thomas.  Their youngest daughter, Primrose, never married and when she died in 1973 she was buried with her mother.

Grave of Leah Wood & her daughter, Primrose

*The only other WWI Commonwealth War Grave within St. Martin’s Churchyard relates to William Richard Griffin who died on 22 July 1920.  During the war William had been a Private with the 51st. Btn. Devonshire Regiment.  His name does not appear on the Worle War Memorial.  William died of Phthisis (tuberculosis).

CWGC headstone for W.R. Griffin