A Family at War (Part 2)

At the start of the Great War the population of Byford in Herefordshire, including children, was 148 and Mansell Gamage 116, giving a total of 264 inhabitants.

51 young men enlisted from the two villages and 13 of those sadly died. The others returned, but life would never be the same for any of them, after what they experienced.

Of those 51 men who enlisted, six of them were connected to my Wootton Family, four of them came home, but sadly two of them gave the ultimate sacrifice for their Country.

All six were related, four Sons Born to James Wootton and Robina Wootton and two Sons born to John Henry Wootton and Frances Wootton and they were all ‘Cousins’.

This is the second of two blogs telling the stories of these six brave men, in Part 1 we heard the stories of Thomas Wootton and William Wootton, Sons of John Henry Wootton and Frances Wootton.

Family at War Part 1

For various reasons, this second part has been a long time coming, but here finally, is the second part of this harrowing tale. In Part 2 we hear the stories of James Wootton and Robina Wootton’s four Sons, Thomas Wootton, George James Wootton, William Wootton and Alfred John Wootton. Each son served King and Country and each of them had a different War story to tell, sadly not all of them survived and they had vastly different experiences from each other. Let me tell you their stories……..

Thomas Wootton

Thomas Wootton was the oldest of four sons and was born in Mortlake in Surrey on 17th October 1891. His father James had brought his family down from Mansell Gamage in Herefordshire, to the outskirts of London sometime between 1881-1891, presumably for work. Thomas like his Father James, was a carpenter by trade.

Thomas Wootton enlisted on 8th September 1914, just a few months into the War and he joined the 5th Reserve Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment. During the first year of the war two million men had joined Britain’s army, Thomas being one of them. At the time of his attestation he was living at 84, Alfred Street, Gloucester. Thomas Wootton’s Army records were one of the fortunate ones to survive the later bombing in WW2 that destroyed a large number of the earlier WW1 records. Thomas was fortunate enough to have over 40 documents survive. 

The 5th Battalion, Gloucester Regiment was formed at Gloucester in September 1914 as a home service unit and Thomas was one of the first soldiers to be enlisted to this newly formed Battalion. His Army Service Number was 2979 and during his active service Thomas was promoted firstly to Lance Corporal in January 1915 and then to Corporal in June 1915. In January 1915 the Battalion came under command of 2nd South Midland Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division, at Northampton. He moved to Chelmsford in April 1915 and on to Park House Camp (Tidworth) in February 1916.

In amongst Thomas Wootton’s Service Records is a memorandum dated 4th January 1916 making reference to a lady called Annie Louisa. Thomas had earlier Married a lady called Annie Louisa Bray on 5th April 1915 in Gloucester.


(Thomas Wootton’s Marriage Record – Gloucestershire Archives; Gloucester, Gloucestershire; Gloucestershire Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Numbers: P154/1 in 1/8)

He went overseas with the Gloucester Regiment on the 13th December 1916 and he joined the Royal Engineer Signal Depot on 17th December 1916, so his limited overseas service with the Gloucesters appears to have just lasted until he was transferred to the Signals.

Thomas Wootton Medal Roll

(Thomas Wootton Medal Rolls – The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; War Office and Air Ministry: Service Medal and Award Rolls, First World War. WO329; Ref: 388)

On 17th December 1916 Thomas transferred to a newly formed signal unit, part of the Royal Engineers, he joined 30 Div Signals Company Royal Engineers on 04/05/1917 from the Signals Depot and was allocated a new Army Service Number of 3012 which was allotted from a Territorial Force Royal Engineers Unit. Thomas was then re-numbered with a new Royal Engineer Army Service Number 165887 at a later date. In amongst the service documents are some interesting documents, one details his role within the Signals Unit as a ‘Field Lineman’. These documents can be further supplemented by War Diary entries, see below. 

Thomas Wootton Mortlake 8

(Protection Certificate for Thomas Wootton showing trade of Field Lineman)

The role of a Field Lineman includes working as a member of a team in laying, maintaining, and taking up the wire or cable of a telephone or telegraph communication system. This also entails running wires along the ground by guiding it from a wire reel of a wire truck and fastening the wire to poles, stakes, or trees, and carrying it across roads or other obstructions by burying it in shallow ditches or suspending it from trees, telephone poles, or lance poles. They would also locate and determine the cause of line trouble by testing wire at intervals and carrying out any necessary repairs. They might also operate a portable field telephone switchboard. 

Thomas is named in the War Diaries of 30 Division Signals Corp on 04/05/1917 where it states he joined the unit and he is mentioned again in a Nominal Roll attached to the July 1917 War Diary in which he is described as a C.W. Commander. A C.W. Commander is Cable Wagon Commander and each Signals Company had two or three Cable Wagons to lay cables to Artillery and Infantry Brigade HQs.

4th May 1917

(War Diary entry from The National Archives – WO 95/2323/2)

CW Commander T. Wootton?

(War Diary entry from The National Archives – WO 95/2323/2)

Attached here is the map showing the area in which Thomas and his Regiment were laying cables at that time.

Map Number 1

(War Diary entry from The National Archives – WO 95/2323/2)

Recorded in amongst Thomas’s service documents are two additional documents that reference and recognise his previous trade of Carpenter. The documents are Trade and Special qualifications and a Certificate of Trade Proficiency Document (both new documents to me!). The latter document describes Thomas’ work as “very good”.

Thomas Wootton Mortlake 21

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

Thomas Wootton Mortlake 19

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

Thomas Wootton Mortlake 18

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

What happened to Thomas after the War?

At the end of the War, Thomas was one of those soldiers de-mobbed in 1919, large numbers of men (30,000 plus per week) were demobilised and each Soldier had the chance to declare if they felt there was a disability that might allow them to claim a pension on release. Thomas was declared as A1 fit when he left Army Service to join ‘civvy street’ again. Thomas was in a more fortunate position than many other Soldiers who found themselves suddenly back on ‘civvy street’, he still had his trade as a Carpenter to fall back on.

Thomas lived until the age of 78 and died in Poole in Dorsett. He worked throughout his life in the Building trade managing to forge a living after the war years. His sense of ‘duty’ never left him as he listed additional skills on the 1939 Register as ‘Rescue and Demolition’, Thomas and his Wife Annie Louisa are living at Kenwood, Chester Road, Coleshill, Warwickshire.

Thomas Wootton 1939 Register

(The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/5726F)

Sadly for Thomas his wife Annie Louisa Wootton died just after the end of the Second World War on 4th November 1947, by this time the couple had only one Son, Kenneth J Wootton who was born in Gloucester in 1920. On Annie’s Will, Thomas is listed as the sole beneficiary and he is by this time a Master Builder.

Thomas died in Poole in Dorsett in 1969.

George James Wootton

George James Wootton was the second oldest son of James and Robina Wootton and he was born 8th April 1894 in Chiswick, in London. At the time his Father had remained in London to find work as a Carpenter and Joiner. In 1901 the Wootton family, including all four of their sons are living at 2, Langton Cottages, in St. George’s, Brentford, with James listed as a carpenter and joiner. By 1911 James and Robina have moved the family back to James home Village of Mansell Gamage and they are counted on the 1911 Census at Bridge Sollers, Mansell Gamage, Herefordshire. It’s from here that all four Wootton brothers answer the call from their Country ‘to serve’. 

George James was called up for Army Service on 2nd September 1916 and served in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was attested on 16th October 1916 at Lichfield and at the time of his attestation he was living at 40, Vicarage Street, Walsall and his trade was recorded as a Monotype Operator. George lists his next of kin as James Wootton of Mansell Gamage in Herefordshire.

George James Wootton Army 2

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

George James Wootton Army 3

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

His Army Record shows that initially he was at Grove Park from 6th September to 16th September, before moving to the Learners Section and was posted to Isleworth on 16th September 1916. He passed his learners test on 7th March 1917 and served with the Royal Army Service Corps Service Number DM2/208031. DM2 Indicates a Driver Mechanic Class 2. He was posted with his Regiment to East Africa on 10th October 1917 until 27th November 1918. He also served in France in June 1919, just before the war ended.

George James Wootton Army 6

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

There is some confusion with George’s early records concerning his attestation. A number of other Army Service Corps Soldiers recruited with similar service numbers indicate a call up earlier than September 1916 in February 1916. George’s records also show that he was classified as medical grade B1, which could mean that he failed his medical in February 1916 and was then called up in September 1916 with other class B1 men. September 1916 saw thousands of ‘class A’ Army Service Corps soldiers transferred to infantry units and replaced by class B medical grade soldiers.

George’s medical sheet also contains details of bouts of Malaria that he suffered in both Dar es Salaam & Dodoma.

George James Wootton Army 8

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

There are numerous details listing George’s work duties;

George James Wootton Army 19

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

George was demobilised in February 1919, on his leave of duty from East Africa into a job as a Monotype Operator, a career he pursued for the vast majority of his working career. See the note below.

George James Wootton Army 14

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

Below is the Medal Card for George James Wootton.

George James Wootton Medal Card 2

(British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920)

There are over 28 surviving documents covering George’s Service Career and I have including only those most relevant to his story. 

What happened to George after the war?

Not long after the war ended, George married Ethel May Stanley on 21st April 1919 at Christ Church, Sparkbrook, Birmingham. George is listed as a SASC on his Wedding Certificate which indicates, Small Arms School Corps.

George james Wootton Marriage

(George James Wootton Register Entry)

I have been unable to find any children born to this couple whilst carrying out my researches..

In 1939 George and his wife Ethel can be found living at 200 Stockport Road in Manchester and George’s occupation is recorded as a Linotype & Monotype Operator (Newspaper Offices). So I assume he was working for one of the Manchester newspapers at the time. Ethel’s occupation is also recorded and she is listed as a ‘Milliner own business’.

George died in July 1991 in Haywards Heath in West Sussex.

William Wootton

William Wootton was the third oldest of the Wootton boys and was born on 26th May 1896 in Brentford in Middlesex. He was baptised on February 18th 1898 along with his two older brothers who were baptised the same day, Thomas aged 7 and George James aged 4. The three boys were all baptised at St. Georges Church in Brentford, Middlesex.

3 Wootton Soldiers Baptisms

(London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: dro/059/006)

We already know that his father James had taken the family back home to Mansell Gamage in 1911 to reside at The Paddocks and it’s from here that William enlists with his home County Regiment, the Herefordshire Regiment. His service number with the Herefordshire Regiment was 4517 and he was later transferred into the 11th Battalion Border Regiment Service Number 27837.

After enlisting in Hereford William was initially posted to the Herefordshire Regiment for training and in September 1916 was among 300 men transferred to the 11th Borders (the Lonsdales) for service overseas.  The Lonsdales had been out of the front line since 1 July, the first day of the battle of the Somme, when they lost 25 officers, including their colonel, and 490 other ranks, mown down by machine guns at Authuille Wood. Towards the end of October they returned to the Somme and in November were ordered to take part in the attack on Munich and Frankfort trenches, the last “big push” on Redan Ridge near Beaumont Hamel. 

On the morning of November 18th they advanced though a freezing blizzard of sleet. The British artillery fell short, killing or wounding many of their own men and leaving the German machine guns untouched, but a number of the Lonsdales fought their way through to Frankfort trench where the attack disintegrated into savage hand to hand fighting in the mud. When darkness came, a few stragglers made their way back to their own lines, while the badly wounded crawled into shell holes and waited, the fortunate for rescue, the majority to die from the effects of their injuries and the freezing cold. William died somewhere in the battle. His body was not found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial, one of the 73,412 “missing” of the Somme during 1916 -17.  Because of the nature of the fighting and the uncertainty of the fate of many of the men, it was many months before his parents received definite confirmation of his death. Ninety two men of the Herefordshire Regiment who transferred to the 11th Border Regiment were Killed in Action or Died of Wounds, on the Somme during the period 18th – 25th November. The impact to Herefordshire was immense, many lost friends and family; many towns and villages suffered a loss.

William Wootton is recorded as being ‘killed in action’ 18 November 1916 aged 20 and he is Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.


(The Picture of the Thievpal Memorial is kindly reproduced thanks to Amanda Slater)

Alfred John Wootton

Alfred John Wootton was the youngest of the four Wootton sons and he was born on 21st January 1899 in Brentford, Middlesex and he was baptised on 14th April 1899 at St. George’s Church, Old Hounslow.

Alfred John Wootton joined the London Regiment (City of London Rifles) and was given the Service Number 474628. Sadly Alfred’s service records were one of the many records destroyed by enemy bombing during WW2. With the help of the wonderful people on the Great War Forum, I was at least able to piece together the movements of Alfred’s Regiment during the Great War;

Alfred’s medal rolls enabled me to confirm that he did indeed serve overseas the medal rolls stated he arrived in a theatre of war (France) on 19 June 1918 and returned 8th Jan 1919.  He is also only listed as serving with 12th Bn. On 31 January 1918 he was transferred to 175th Brigade in 58th (2/1st London) Division, which absorbed the disbanded 2/12th Bn and was renamed 12th Bn. The Regiment was engaged in the following battles on the Western Front:


The Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March)
The Battle of the Avre (4 April)
The Battle of Villers-Bretonneux (24-25 April)
The Battle of Amiens (8-11 August)

The Battle of Albert (22-23 August)
The Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August – 1 September)
(Second Battle of the Somme 1918)

The Battle of Epehy (18 September) (Battle of the Hindenburg Line)

The general final advance in Artois (2 October – 11 November)

The Battalion War Diaries are fairly comprehensive and cover the whole period that Alfred would have been fighting, but sadly there is no individual reference to him. The Division had crossed the River Scheldt and the forward units were south of Ath on 11 November 1918. The Division remained in the Peruwelz area after the Armistice. Here the units began to demobilise and by early March 1919 the Division was down to a small set of cadres which were moved to Leuze. The last units sailed for home at the end of June 1919, bringing the history of the Division to an end.

Armistice day in November 1918 saw the end of The Great War, but with million of men still overseas. it was several months before all the soldiers would return home. A phased scheme of demobilisation took place, with priority given to those men who had previously been employed during peacetime with an occupation that was needed most on the home front. The long wait to return home was extremely frustrating for many men, eager to return home to their loved ones. With the war over, there was very little to keep the soldiers occupied whilst awaiting for demobilisation. The expected ‘heroes return’ for the men wasn’t what they expected and the repatriation of the troops to a Country that was ‘ill prepared’ for their return left many soldiers deeply upset, it was both a logistical and financial nightmare for both the Government and Armed forces to manage.

Demobilization 24

(Troops ready for Demobilisation from France)


(Getting measured for your Demob suit)

The end of the war also coincided with the terrible Spanish Flu Pandemic that saw the millions of people lose their lives. This is still today one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, with estimated deaths at anywhere between 25 and 50 million people. When you consider that the total death for the Great War was around 20 million, you can clearly see devastating affect this pandemic would have been both at home as well as globally.

What happened to Alfred after the War?

The 1920’s saw a lot of change across the Country, which included single women gaining the right to vote in a General Election. Married women had previously secured the right to vote much earlier in 1918, thanks to the suffragette movement. The returning men from war came home to a totally different Country to the one they left behind. Alfred was one the lucky ones, he returned home from war to his family and a secure job, unlike many of his fellow soldiers. The years between the Wars were particularly difficult for men, employment opportunities were few and far between. The Country was going through a deep depression and money and opportunities were scarce for many families. Alfred had fortunately secured himself a respectable and decent job as a Chauffeur

Alfred married Eunice Williams on 7th April 1928 in Hampstead in London, Alfred’s occupation at the time was a Chauffeur and he was living in West Hampstead at the time. From my researches, I have been unable to identify any children born to the couple at this time. The 1939 Register shows the couple living in Hendon in Middlesex and Alfred is still employed as a chauffeur. Alfred died on 17 October 1985 at Wimborne in Dorset and his wife Eunice died just one year after, also in Wimborne in Dorset. I can’t be sure exactly when Alfred moved to Dorset, but given that his oldest brother was living in Poole in Dorset, before he died, I hope that the two brothers were able to spend some of their final years together.

These young men all had vastly different war experiences and like their two cousins that we heard about in the first part of this story the one unique thing that connects them all together and the millions of young men like them was their sense of duty to their Country.

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6 thoughts on “A Family at War (Part 2)

  1. What an interesting read! I really like how you included life after the war – i.e. what returning soldiers discharged from their duties faced when re-entering civilian life. It was undoubtedly a challenging time.

    Liked by 1 person

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