Of the Number One gun crew
wrongly recorded somewhere along the line?
Cemetery & headstone documents relating to a Gunner/acting Bombardier Wood S. No. 58647 indicated a date of death of May 17, 1915 (the 16 having been crossed out). Was there anything else that I could check? Was he entitled to any medals?
Yes, he was entitled to the Victory and British War Medals and his name appears in the Roll of individuals entitled to such. And there, on record is 58647 Gnr/abdr Wood Samuel RFA and in the remarks “Dead 17/6/15”, just one day different from the War Diary, this was confirmed again by the “Register of Soldiers’ Effects,” which indicated that a sum of £13.2.0 was to be paid to Thomas Wood, the sole legatee, plus a War Gratuity of £5.0.0. Again the date of June 17 is stated.
After more internet searching I unearthed the Army Service Records for 58647 Samuel Wood which showed, amongst other things, that he had been transferred to the care of the 16th Field Ambulance and had died of wounds on the 17th of June 1915. He had been buried at the “Cemetery, Vlamertinghe” on June 20. His service record gave other details about the man as a person.
Samuel Wood had enlisted on September 23, 1909, he had lived in the Parish of St James, Wolverhampton, and was a 5’7, 18 year old youth of good development, whose civilian occupation was a groom.
Whilst in the army he had been employed as a storeman and was described as “Honest, sober, clean, hard-working and reliable, intelligent and accustomed to working with horses.”
He is recorded as having been posted to the 111th Battery RFA from reinforcements on the October 25, 1914, so he would have been with the Battery from the early days of the war. His record shows that he was based at home from enlistment until deployment to France on September 10, 1914.
So, what of his family? The record of “Soldiers Effects” shows his sole legatee as Thomas Wood, one might assume this to be his father, but his service records indicate that the referred to Thomas was his brother, and further showed that Thomas had been resident at a school for the deaf and dumb in Manchester, where he appears on the 1911 census as a 16 year old boarder, and Apprentice Bootmaker.
The 1901 census had shown Thomas, three years junior to Samuel, and living at 17 Cornhill, Wolverhampton, with parents Thomas and Eve plus siblings John and Elizabeth in addition to Samuel.
Upon Samuel’s death it became necessary to find his next of kin and the County Police at Old Trafford, Manchester, were called upon to assist in locating Thomas. Amongst documents in Samuel’s Army Record are letters relating to this. There are two, dated July 18, 1915 from the County Police Office, Old Trafford, to the RFA & RHA Records Office at Woolwich, and to the Chief Constable, Borough Police Office, Wolverhampton, to say that Thomas had left the Deaf & Dumb School at Manchester some 12 months previously and was lodging at No. 1 Redhall Street, Wolverhampton.
A reply dated July 19, 1915 from Sergeant Walter W Tart of the Police Office Wolverhampton indicated that on that day he had visited the address and spoken with a Mrs Wright with whom Thomas was lodging, she informed the Sergeant that Thomas was at work at that time, his employer being Baker & Son’s boot factory, but he was aware of his brother’s death.
I presented the information which I had unearthed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who agreed that some of their records must be incorrect regarding date of death, and where possible they would alter them, and that his headstone which had borne the wrong date for a hundred years would, in due course, be corrected.
In October 2017 my brother and I made a visit to the battlefields of Belgium and France, and a visit to the Military Cemetery at Vlamertinghe was a must. We found the grave of Samuel Wood, still with the original headstone and date. There were also a number of unidentified graves. We decided to ‘adopt’ one, it could easily be the grave of our great uncle Bill, or perhaps Fred Green. My grandmother used to say that Bill could be the Unknown Warrior. In a way, I suppose he is.
Vlamertinghe cemetery shortly after the end of the war
Vlamertinghe Church and cemetery as it looks today
The grave of A/bdr. S. Woods, Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Belgium
Fred Green as listed in the Register of Soldiers’ Effects