Langford’s First World War Casualties

Following the publication of Burrington Parish in World War I, Jacky Kerly has collected together information about each of the eight men commemorated on the war memorial that stands outside St Mary’s Church in Langford.  Notes on each man are presented in the following articles.

Photographs of the memorial and of some of the men can be seen in the Gallery.

The dedication on the memorial reads:


In honoured memory of the men of Langford who gave their lives for God, King and Country in the Great War 1914 – 1918.

[A M D C :  Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (Latin: To the Greater Glory of God)]

GEORGE EDWARD HILLING (1883 – 27 March 1917)

George Edward Hilling was born in 1883 in Winchester, the second son of George Hilling, a butler, and his wife, Agnes. George Snr, had previously been in service at Poringland House in Norfolk.  He and Agnes had six children. The two eldest, William Thomas (born 1881) and George Edward were born in Weeke. Then, after they had moved to Langford, came three girls, Emily (1885), Agnes (1888) and Elsie (1890), and finally another son, Walter Henry (1892). The family lived at 1, Blackmoor before moving to Victoria Jubilee Memorial Cottages, Langford. George Senior was still  employed as a butler.

In 1901, George Edward, aged 17, was working as a grocer’s porter. However, by 1911, he was a police constable living in lodgings in Fishponds, Bristol. There, he married  Rose Clark and they had a son whom George never saw.

George Edward was Gunner 291727 and was serving in France with the 129th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery when he was killed in action on 27th March 1917.  He was 34. He is buried at the Ecoivres Military cemetery at Mont-St.Eloi (IV.H.8), Pas de Calais, France. This cemetery is 8 kilometres north west of Arras and contains 1,728 Commonwealth, 786 French and 4 German war graves.

The following appeared in the Weston Mercury & Somersetshire Herald on 14th April 1917:-


We deeply regret to announce the death of Private George Hilling, second son of Mr and Mrs G. Hilling of Langford, who was killed in action on the 26th ult. Gunner Hilling was born and brought up in Langford and attended Churchill School, where his portrait hangs with those of many other old boys who are fighting in honour’s cause, and some of whom, alas, will never return. The dead hero, whose two brothers are both serving at the Front, was for 12 years in the Bristol Police Force. He joined the Bristol Heavy Battery of Artillery, and was drafted to France a year ago. There is added pathos in the fact that he had not seen the little son who was born during his absence, and, needless to say, heartfelt sympathy is entertained with Mr and Mrs Hilling, who are much respected in the village, and with the young widow and child. Private Hilling was a fine man both physically and in personal attributes, and the following letters bear eloquent testimony to his heroism and bravery:

-th Heavy Battery


March 26th 1917

Dear Mrs Hilling, – I am very grieved to tell you that your husband, Gunner G.E. Hilling, was killed in action this afternoon. He died in a noble endeavour to procure water for his fellow gunners. His death has robbed us of one of the best gunners of the battery. He was always cheery, even in the most trying conditions. You will be glad to know that he suffered no pain, being killed instantaneously. He left a will in his pay book, which has been forwarded to the base, leaving £11 his property and effects to you, his wife. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you as I was his section officer.

Yours sincerely


The following letter is from his brother William:

Dear Father and Mother, – It is with deep regret, I have to write and tell you of poor George’s death. He was killed by a German shell and died instantly, so one good thing poor George knew nothing of it. Frank and I have been up to the cemetery today, and we are going to the funeral tomorrow, the 28th. It is a hard task for me to write and tell you this news. I shall miss him more than I can say. He was just the same here as he was at home. I have written to poor Rose. I will write more next time. Frank wishes to be remembered to you all.

From your loving son,


So died a brave soldier and British Gentleman”.

WILLIAM DARE (1898 – 27th March 1918)

William was born in Dolberrow, in 1898.  He was the fifth of the six children of Barnard and Jane who had married in 1889.  Although born into a family of masons in Dolberrow, Barnard became a carpenter and in the 1911 census when he, Jane and their two youngest children were living at Langford Green, his occupation was give as “estate carpenter”, so he was probably employed at Langford Court. In 1918, when William died, Barnard and Jane were living in Laburnum Cottage, Stock, most probably in the house of that name in Redshard Lane.  They remained there until Barnard died in 1931.

William was killed in action on the 27th March 1918. He had enlisted in Axbridge in August 1915 with the Royal Army Service Corps (140579), transferring to the London Regiment, Royal Fusiliers, A- Company, 9th Battalion, 15684. He had been wounded in action in April, 1917, and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial Panel 19-21.  The Weston Mercury carried a report and tribute on April 20th and a photograph of William the following week.  He had just celebrated his 20th birthday.

JOHN STEMBRIDGE BURDGE (1895 – 1st July 1916)

John was born in Churchill in 1895. He was the last of the six children of Reuben and Emma Burdge. These were Mary, James, Elizabeth, William, Edith and John. Stembridge was the maiden name of his grandmother Mary who had been born in Bridport. She was still alive in 1911, aged 89, living in Says Lane with Reuben and Emma. John’s grandfather, James, who was born in Churchill in 1821, had been a soldier in the 7th Royal Fusiliers. He served in the Crimea and gained medals and bars for fighting at Sebastopol, Inkerman and Alma. By 1861 he was an Army Pensioner living back in Dolberrow with his only child Reuben, who had been born in Aldershot Camp in 1857/8. In 1881 Reuben (23) and his mother were recorded as fish hawkers. Subsequently, Ruben became an apparently prosperous fishmonger.

After marrying in 1885, Reuben and Emma moved to Says Lane, Upper Langford where they lived next to another James Burdge, a farmer and likely relative. They remained there until the end of their lives, Emma dying in 1930, Reuben in 1931. For a time the Clarke family, whose sons Percy and Harold were also killed in the war, lived close by.

John Stembridge Burdge joined up in 1914, entering France in September 1915. He was killed in action on the 1st July 1916, aged 21 while serving as a Lance Corporal with the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry (15990) attached to the Royal Engineers. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, which is located on the northern part of the 1916 Somme battlefields near the village of Pozières. These men died in the Somme battle sector before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave.  Over 90 percent of those commemorated died in the Battles of the Somme between July and November 1916.

The following sad report appeared in the Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald on 15th July, 1916:-


The sincere sympathies of residents throughout the Langford district are extended to Mr. and Mrs. R Burdge, the parents, and Mrs J. Burdge, the bride of only a few weeks, now the widow, of Corpl. J. Burdge, the young hero having been officially reported as having been “killed in action.”  The deceased was one of the brightest and most cheerful of lads, and his manly qualities, coupled with his open frankness and sincerity, won for him the warmest affection of a wide circle of friends, and the highest regard and esteem of residents of all ages and in whatever sphere of life.  It was barely a month since the deceased was home on leave, and ere he returned to his military duties he was married to Miss Elsie Cox, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. B. Cox, the ceremony taking place on the 2nd June.  Corpl. Burdge joined Kitchener’s Army in 1914, and served in “D” Coy., 8th Somersets, but latterly he had been attached to the Royal Engineers.  He was present at the battle of Loos, when he experienced a wonderful escape, his bayonet being struck with a piece of shrapnel shell and shattered but the plucky young soldier was himself unscathed.  His wife has for several years been a member of St. Mary’s, Langford, choir, and it was whilst proceeding to the church to take part in the service that the intimation of her great loss reached her.  The one bright gleam in the great sorrow which has overtaken her will increasingly, as time softens the cruel blow, be the fact that her husband gave his life in the noblest of all causes, that of country, honour, and right.  It is worthy of note that the gallant young soldier’s grandfather, the late James Burdge, served with the 7th Royal Fusiliers through the Crimea War, for which he obtained two medals and three bars for Sebastopol, Inkerman, and Alma.”

John Stembridge’s young widow married again in late 1918. Her husband was Richard J Avery and they lived in Ash Cottage, Langford until at least 1925. Elsie died in South Molton, Devon, in 1965.

LEWIS FREDERICK COX (1891 -25th May 1915)

Although Lewis is commemorated on both the St Mary’s and St James’ Church memorial, it has not been possible to find anything linking him directly to Langford.

It seems likely that he was born in Butcombe in 1891, the eleventh of a family of fourteen children.  All but one were still living in 1911. Their parents were William (born in Cleeve in 1851) and Sarah Ann (born in Bath about 1852).  From 1874 they had Alice, Hester, Agnes, Willis, Herbert, Margaret, Elsie, Mabel, Oliver and Laura before Lewis in 1891, then Reginald, Edwin and Leonard. The older children were born in Congresbury or Wrington but in 1891 they were in Butcombe, in 1901 in Blagdon (Merecombe) and in 1911 in Nempnett. In the 1901 census, Sarah and her older daughters are described as laundresses and William as a small farmer. In 1911 William is recorded as a farmer and Edwin is working with him.

In the 1911 census Lewis is recorded as a nineteen year old private living in Pembroke Barracks but with his occupation given as “collier”. It was not uncommon for local lads to look for work in the Welsh mines and possibly he had been working in the mines immediately prior to joining the army. He may have been a territorial soldier at this stage. As such he would have been called up at the beginning of the war.  His military records state that he enlisted in Cardiff as a Private in the 1st Battalion Welsh Regiment, service number 9953. Military records are a little confused – his residence is given as “Blagdon, Glos”.

Lewis entered France on 1st April 1915 and was killed in action on the 25th May 1915. His name is on Panel 37 of the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial. His Commonwealth War Commission certificate gives his name as Lewis Frederick Blagdon Cox and records no next of kin. No notice of his death has been found in the Weston Mercury.

At least two of Lewis’s brothers served in the war and are listed on Blagdon’s roll of honour; Reginald James, born 1894, in the Gloucestershire Regiment (possibly 201380) and Edwin Ferris, born 1897, West Somerset Yeomanry 1518, then Somerset Light Infantry 27167. Both brothers are recorded on the 1925 electoral roll (but not in 1930) as living at Churchill Park Congresbury but within the Churchill Parish. Churchill Park Farm was in Ladymead Lane, Langford. Lewis’s nearest sister, Laura Beatrice born 1889, married Alfred Dare in 1916. They lived in Stock Lane near to Alfred’s parents, Alfred and Ellen, who were at Park View, Churchill. Alfred and Laura had three children, Francis in 1917, Dennis in 1920 and Joyce in 1922. These sibling links may explain why Lewis was commemorated on the Langford and Churchill Memorials.

PERCY ARTHUR CLARK (1885 -2nd January 1918) and HAROLD WOOKEY CLARK (1887 – 27th August 1917)

Percy and Harold came from a family of ten children whose parents Thomas and Alice Maria, née Wookey, moved around quite frequently. Eldest son Percy was born in Rowberrrow, Harold and Honora in Yatton; Cyril, Edward, Gilbert in Abbots Leigh; Mary in Wrington; Helena, Decina and Marjorie in Upper Langford. Thomas was an agricultural labourer though in 1901 he was working on the railway, presumably on the local extension to Blagdon. The family settled in Rose Cottage, Says Lane and remained there until at least 1930.

In 1901, Percy was working as a groom. In 1911, he was a Hackney Motor driver and at the time of his voluntary enlistment in October 1915, he was a tractor engineer in Weston super Mare. He was single.

Harold became a blacksmith’s striker when he left school. In late 1909 he married Virtue Mary Grey in Bristol and in 1911 he was working as a gardener at Brentry Hill, Westbury on Trym. At the time of his death, his wife was living at 1 Stoke Cottages, Stoke Bishop, with a daughter Kathleen who had been born in 1913.

Harold was killed in action on the 27th August 1917 while serving as a Private in the 2/4th (City of Bristol) Battalion, Territorial force, Gloucestershire Regiment.  His final service number was 202640 (previously 28557 and 20330). He was aged 32 and is listed on Panel 72-75 at Tyne Cot, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. This is in the area which was known as the Ypres Salient.

Percy died on 2nd January 1918. He had enlisted in Bristol in October 1915 and was a Private with the Army Service Corps, service number M2/132333. He did most of his initial training in Bath before leaving for France on 21st March 1916. At the time of his death aged 33 he was with 29th Ammunition Sub. Park. (Sub. Parks were the distribution points at the end of the road behind the lines from which the Ammunition would be taken forward by horse or man.) A report in the Weston Mercury gave more details of his service and included copies of letters sent to his parents.

Percy’s death was as a result of a tragic accident in which he was hit in the head by a lorry skidding on ice. His burial was in the Fauquembergues Communal Cemetery, one of only two Commonwealth graves there. The other is for a soldier who died in 1915. His father supplied the wording for his headstone, which reads ‘With Christ which is far better’.


WILLIAM EDGAR BROWNING (3 April 1899 – 23 August 1918)

William Edgar Browning, known as Edgar, was born on 3 April 1899 and lived with his family in Stock Lane. He was the son of William Henry Browning, a carpenter & wheelwright and his wife, Bessie. Both were born in Churchill in 1870. They had five children: Frederick Ernest born 1892, Maud born 1895, William Edgar, Walter Samuel born 1902, and Vera Madge born 1910.

Edgar joined up in 1917. He was serving as Private 67871 in the 6th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment when he was killed in action in France on 23rd August 1918. He is buried in the Meaulte Military cemetery. The village of Meaulte, in the Department of the Somme, France, was held by Commonwealth Forces from 1915 to 26 March 1918, when it was evacuated. It was recaptured on 22nd August 1918. The cemetery, which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and is located south of the village, has 291 casualties buried there.

The following appeared in the Weston Mercury & Somerset Herald on the 21st September 1918:-

KILLED IN ACTION. We regret to hear of the death of Private Edgar Browning, of Langford. His parents had the sad news conveyed to them on Wednesday afternoon from the War Office that he was killed in action fighting for his country. He was a splendid boy and will be mourned by all who knew him. He was a member of the Churchill choir, and a Sunday School teacher. Much sympathy is felt for his bereaved parents.

Edgar’s elder brother Frederick also served in the War. As a farmer he had emigrated to Australia where he enlisted with the Machine Gun Company, November 1916, in Brisbane, giving his address as c/o Mr E Thatcher, Mary Valley Line, Queensland. He gave his occupation as farmer and his mother Bessie as his next of kin. Many of his Military documents have survived and can be found on-line. He was given some home leave in January 1917, then signed up for service abroad in February before sailing from Melbourne in June. He arrived in Liverpool in August or September. Almost immediately he was hospitalised with acute appendicitis in Fargo Military hospital, Larkhill. He was transferred to the 41st Battalion Australian Infantry around this time. He then spent time in Fovant hospital, the Southern General in Bristol and in the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford. He was discharged to a company depot at Hurdcott in November before being classified fit in December. He left Fovant for France in February 1918. In August he was suffering with foot problems and was invalided back to Northamptonshire Hospital. In November he was transferred to a company depot in Sutton Veny, Wiltshire from where he returned to Australia in December. He went on to grow pineapples in Queensland. He married there but neither he nor any of his siblings had any children.

The youngest brother Walter became a grocer, his business being Browning and Watts in Churchill.

ERNEST ARTHUR BROWNETT (1st February1894 – 16 January 1917)

Ernest Arthur was born in Langford, the youngest son of Charles Brownett, a coachman/gardener at Langford Court and his wife, Sarah Ann née Symes. In 1911, he was listed as a postman, aged 17. Also living in Langford were his brother, Edwin James (23), a domestic gardener, and their sister, Mabel Ellen (14).

He was known as Arthur, or Jim, and was Private 26046 serving in present-day Iraq with the 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, when he died on 16th January 1917 at the age of 22. He is buried in the Amara War cemetery (Grave Reference XVIII.D.9).  Amara (now Al Amarah) is a town on the left bank of the River Tigris some 520 kilometres from the sea. It was occupied by the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force on 3rd June 1915 and immediately became a hospital centre. Amara War cemetery contains 3,696 identified burials and 925 unidentified casualties of the First World War.

On the 3rd February 1917 the following obituary was printed in the Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald:-


 Much sympathy is extended by residents throughout Burrington and District toward Mr and Mrs Charles Brownet [sic] in the loss of their youngest son, Arthur Brownet, of the Wiltshire Regiment, who was killed in action at the Persian Gulf on January 16th. His parents had been wondering why they had received no letter from him, and on Saturday morning were shocked to receive a communication from the War Office notifying them of his death. The gallant young soldier was well known in the district being for many years in the Langford post office, where he was greatly missed when called up. Being of a genial kindly nature, he was very much beloved by those who came in contact with him. He was a member of the Burrington Church of England Men’s Society, and was also a member of the Men’s Club Committee. Mr and Mrs Brownet have one other son at the front and one serving with the YMCA.”

While at the front Arthur had become friends with a Samuel Millbank and they had pledged that if either were killed the other would visit their family. Samuel did that and later married Arthur’s sister Ellen (Nellie). Their grandson John Millbank has provided information and photographs since the publication of the Burrington in WWI book including the photographs of Ernest in postman’s uniform and Edwin with a horse.

Of other members of the family, Reginald Charles was born in 1884 and served with the YMCA from 1915 to 1920, as he was unfit for active service. In April 1915 he married Rose Shepstone. He died in 1939.

 Edwin James, who was born in 1888, served with the Royal Engineers as a Lance Corporal from 1914 to 1919 and saw active in France and Italy. Edwin did not marry, living in later life with his sister Lucy.