Five young soldiers from Wellington who died in WW1 have been remembered with poppies and crosses at Twickenham. All were keen players for WRFC and their sacrifice is part of the RFU memorial to rugby players who fell.
Last week Brian Lett and Mike Brewer were at Twickenham representing Wellington RFC, to see the unveiling of the ‘Rose and Poppy memorial gates’. While they were there they took the opportunity to place five crosses on the hallowed turf. Brian has also researched the men behind the names, his findings are outlined below:
WELLINGTON RFC’s ROLL OF HONOUR: WORLD WAR 1
Wellington RFC in Somerset, a club founded in 1874, was thriving in the years leading up the First World War. In the 1913/14 season, the last before the War, it ran three sides: a 1st XV, a Reserves, and a 3rd XV. The Great War was to take the lives of four of its regular 1st XV, and one of its Reserves, all of them born and bred in Wellington. The 1st XV played thirty matches that season against local rivals such as Taunton, Bridgwater, Weston Super Mare and North Petherton.
The first to sacrifice his life for his country was the No.8, Henry Walter Eno, perhaps a larger target than many. Sergeant Henry Eno, Distinguished Conduct Medal, was killed in action on 10 December 1915 far from home, in Mesopotamia. He was 24, and had won his medal only three months earlier for conspicuous gallantry when commanding his platoon under fire. Henry had worked, like his father, as a mason. He and his younger brother Frank had both played in the back row for the Possibles against the Probables at the beginning of Wellington’s 1913/4 season, but Henry had gone on to win himself a regular place in the 1st XV.
The next two to die were both killed on the Somme within eight days of each other. William Braithwaite was 23, and played centre in the first XV. He had worked as a warehouseman in a wool factory before the war. William served as a bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery, and was killed on 14 August 1916. William’s sometimes fly half, sometimes fellow centre or wing, Thomas Westcott, 30 years of age, was killed on 22 August 1916. Thomas was a private in the Gloucestershire Regiment. When young William Braithwaite had first played for the Wellington 1st XV, Thomas Wescott was one of the established players in the back line to whom William would have looked for advice and encouragement. Thomas had worked as a percher [a cloth inspector] in a wool factory.
Henry Eno’s younger brother Frank, also a back row player [although he could also play prop], was killed in Egypt on 23 November 1917. Frank was by then 23, and like his brother, a Sergeant in the Somerset Light Infantry 1st/5th Battalion. As a youngster before the war he, like his father and his brother Henry, had worked as a mason. He may well have played the odd game for the 1st XV, but was a regular in the Reserves.
The full back, Percy Clarence Avent, almost made it past the final whistle. Percy’s parents had at one time run the Half Moon Public House in North Street, Wellington, and he himself had worked as a mechanic in Exeter whilst playing rugby for Wellington. He was engaged to be married. Percy was a Lance Bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery, with whom his centre, William Braithwaite had also served, and Percy had been recommended for the Military Medal in 1917. Percy survived the end of the war, but only by three months. In the appalling conditions of the trenches, he had succumbed to what was diagnosed as bronchial pneumonia [possibly not helped by poison gas], was evacuated home, but lost his battle for life on 15 February 1919, aged 26.
LEST WE FORGET
Compiled by Brian Lett
Sources: Wellington Weekly News; “Our Boys” by Mike Perry and Ray Hitchcock; Wellington RFC Roll of Honour
If anyone has any further information, picture from that time etc Brian would be delighted to hear from you. Email email@example.com