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Updated: Jul 7

Listed below are soldiers, associated with Silton, who gave their lives in WW1.

Research undertaken by Lynda Grange of Gillingham Local History Society (unless indicated otherwise).

If you have anything to amend or add to these stories, please contact the website manager at

Plaque in Silton Church

BURFITT James Charles

145283 Chief Petty Officer James Charles Burfitt was killed in action in the South Atlantic on 14 September 1914 whilst serving aboard HMS Carmania.

 Photo from Western Gazette 16 October 1914

James Charles Burfitt was born on 12 September 1872 at Bourton, Dorset, the son of James and Sarah Burfitt. He was baptised at Bourton on 3 November 1872.  In 1881 James was living with his parents, younger sisters Lily and Annie and Aunt Elizabeth in High Street, Bourton and his father was a labourer.

James joined the Royal Navy on his 18th birthday, 12 September 1890, initially signing up for 12 years. He served on many different ships, gradually gaining promotion until he achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer in 1910.  His naval record shows that he was 5ft 8 ins tall with dark hair and blue eyes.

The 1901 census shows him serving on HMS Trafalgar moored at Portland, Dorset. In 1911 he was serving on HMS Melpomene, a 2nd class cruiser, at Port Royal, Jamaica.

On 29 April 1902 at Portsmouth James married Edith Mary Chater. James was almost 30 and Edith was 26. Edith had been born in London but in 1901 was living with her parents at The Radnor Arms, St James Road, Portsmouth where her father was the publican.  James and Edith had four children, three born in Portsmouth - Edith born 1904, Charles born 1907, Annie born 1909 and Hilda the youngest was born in 1910 at Silton. In 1911 Edith and her four children were living at Tan Lane, Bourton.  

By 1914 James Burfitt had recently transferred to the Royal Navy Reserve but was re-called to serve on HMS Carmania, a Cunard line ocean liner which had been commissioned and armed at the outbreak of WWI. On 14th August 1914 HMS Carmania sailed for Bermuda from Sandon Dock, Liverpool.  The ship was then directed from Bermuda to Trinidad for coaling. On 4th September Carmania set sail for the island of Trinidade 500 miles east of the coast of Brazil, with the objective of preventing German ships refueling there. 

On 14th September they were engaged in a battle with Cap Trafalgar, a large, new, luxurious liner brought into service by the Hamburg-Sud America line in April of that year to sail between Germany and the River Plate.

Carmania and Cap Trafalgar were of similar size, about 19,000 tons, but the British ship had a much bigger armament: eight 4.7inch guns. The German ships set sail once they saw Carmania approaching and seemed initially to be fleeing, but Cap Trafalgar then turned towards the British ship.

Neither ship had the fire control systems or ammunition hoists of a modern warship, so the action was fought in the style of Nelson’s day, with ammunition being brought to the guns by hand and the guns firing as the target bore.

Carmania’s captain ordered a warning shot to be fired at 12:10 pm at 8,500 yards range. Carmania began to fire her port guns at 7,500 yards, with Cap Trafalgar replying. At 4,500 yards the British switched to firing salvoes, the second and third of which hit the German ship on her waterline. The Germans scored a significant number of hits, but most of them were high, hitting Carmania’s masts, funnels, ventilators and bridge.

At 3,500 yards the German one pounders were in range and the barrels of the elderly British guns were red hot. Captain Grant turned his ship in order to fire with the starboard guns.

Both ships were now on fire and Cap Trafalgar was listing. The German captain tried to use his ship’s superior speed to escape and succeeded in getting outside Carmania’s 9,000-yard gun range. However, Cap Trafalgar was too badly damaged to escape and quickly sank.

Carmania had been hit 79 times and was on fire, leaving her in no position to rescue Cap Trafalgar’s survivors. That evening the remains of five men on HMS Carmania who had been killed in action, including those of CPO James Burfitt, were buried at sea. Four more crew members died on the following days.  

James’ widow Edith received a pension for herself and their four children.  James and Edith’s son Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1925 but was invalided out due to tuberculosis in 1934. He died in 1940. Edith died in Lincolnshire aged 91 in 1968.

James Burfitt is remembered on Portsmouth Naval Memorial; Bourton war memorial and the memorial plaque in Silton Church.

This tribute also appears on the Bourton Section of the Website

Entry posted 1 July 2024 (LG)


COOMBS Charles Edwin

26727 Private Charles Edwin Coombs of 2nd Battalion Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire) Regiment was killed in Belgium on 28 April 1918.

Charles was born at Buckland Newton, Dorset in 1897, the son of Henry John and Frances Louisa Coombs. Charles’ mother died in 1902 at North Wooton and his father married widow Ellen Augusta Miller in 1904 at Henstridge.

On 17 October 1907 Charles and his younger brother Arthur were enrolled at Yarlington School, Somerset.

In 1911 Charles was living at Shotwell, Yarlington, Somerset with his father, step-mother and three brothers – William G 20, Edgar H 14 and Arthur S 11 and he was employed as an agricultural labourer. 

Charles originally joined the Dorset Regiment and at that time was living in Gillingham.  In April 1918 the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment was re-formed after losing over 600 men the previous month and was fighting near Ypres. Charles died on 28th April 1918.

In 1920 his father Henry and step-mother Ellen were living at Redmoor Cottages, Gillingham and in 1922 moved to 19 Addison Terrace, Gillingham. His father Henry died in 1924 at Gillingham.  

Charles is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial panel 119 – 120 at Zonnebeke, Belgium, the Gillingham War Memorial and the Silton Church Memorial plaque.

Entry posted 1 July 2024 (LG)


HOSKINS Frederick Eli

3/6591 Private Frederick Eli Hoskins was killed in action on 18 April 1915 in Belgium whilst serving with 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment.

Frederick Eli Hoskins was the second son of George and Emma Hoskins.  He was born at Milton in 1882. In 1901 Frederick was living at The Malthouse, Bourton and his father was a carter on the farm. Frederick had an older brother Henry, three younger sisters - Carolina, Beatrice and Edith and a younger baby brother Bertie.

By 1911 Frederick’s family was living at New Cottage, Silton, and now included another brother, Felix, and a sister, Gertie. Frederick age 18 was working as a carter.

In 1913 Frederick married Mary Jane Coward 1913 at Mere. Frederick and Mary had two sons, but both died in infancy – William 1914- 1915 and Frederick 1915 – 1917. The deaths of her two children as well as her husband must have been a tremendous blow for Mary.

Frederick would have been part of the British campaign during the Second Battle of Ypres and the attempted capture of Hill 60 on the 17th April 1915. He was killed on 18th April 1915. 

Frederick is buried at Woods Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium. 


He is remembered on the Bourton war memorial and the memorial plaque in Silton Church.

In 1919 Mary Jane married Reginald E Mills and in 1939 was still living Mere. 

This tribute also appears on the Bourton Section of the Website

Entry posted 1 July 2024



9266 Private Ernest Merchant of the Border Regiment died of wounds on 30 December 1914 at Exeter, Devon. Formerly 1268 Northumberland Fusiliers.

Ernest was born in Colchester.

In 1891 he was at 6 Barset Yard, Colchester with Alice Merchant, tailoress, Frederick & Ernest

In 1892 Alice married William Bright bricklayer’s labourer.

The census of 1901, 48 Vineyard Street, Colchester shows William, Alice + Laura, Harry, Willliam. Ernest described as “relation” also Bricklayer’s labourer

Enlisted at Ipswich and in 1911 was a Private in the Border Regiment, Rangoon, Burma.

He died of wounds 30 December 1914 at No 1 Voluntary Aid Hospital, Exeter.

Medals awarded - Victory and 1915 Star.  Effects went to Mrs Alice Bright.


Buried at B D28 6 Exeter Higher Cemetery

Remembered at Silton on the Church memorial plaque.

Does anyone know the connection with Silton?

Entry posted 1 July 2024 (LG) ********************************************************************************************

MOORES Edward Mark

5126 Private Edward Mark Moores 1st/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment was killed in action on 14 August 1916.  

 Edward was born at Silton in 1894, the son of Luke Moores, a labourer in an iron foundry, and Mary Moores.

In 1901 Edward age 7 was living at Furzehill Common, Silton with his parents, four older brothers - Arthur 21, Alfred 16, Ernest 14 and William 12, his older sister Lucy 18 and younger sister Dorothy aged 2.

By 1911 Edward age 17 was living in Bournemouth with his older sister Eva, her husband and son, and was employed as greengrocer’s assistant. In 1915 Edward married Ellen M Dunford at Christchurch.

He enlisted in the army at Bournemouth, but the date of his enlistment isn’t known. He wasn’t awarded the 1915 Star medal so probably wasn’t with the 1st/5th battalion of Gloucestershire Regiment when it first landed in France in 1915. The Fifth Gloucester Gazette was the first of the famous trench journals published during WWI.  

Edward’s battalion became part of 145th brigade and Edward was killed in action on 14 August 1916 taking part in the battle of Pozieres which was part of the Somme offensive.

Edward was awarded the British War and  Victory medals, his widow Ellen received £2.2s 1d plus a war gratuity of £3.

Edward is remembered on the Thiepval memorial in France and on the memorial tablet in Silton Church.

Entry posted 1 July 2024 (LG)


SUTER Daniel James

6417 Private Daniel Suter , 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment, was killed in action in France on 13 October 1914.

Daniel was born at Silton in 1885, the son of blacksmith William Suter and his wife Jane.

He was one of ten children, his brothers Edwin, William, Frank, Arthur and sisters Flora, Susannah, Maude, Beatrice all being older than him.

Daniel’s father William died in 1885, the year that Daniel was born, and in 1891 Daniel was living at 1 Stroud Common, Silton with his mother Jane, sisters Susannah & Beatrice and brother Arthur.

His mother married again in 1893 to Emanuel Hicks and Daniel’s half-brother was born in 1894.

According to the Register of Soldier’s Effects Daniel enlisted in the army at Gillingham on 13 January 1902 and the fact that he served for several years is reflected in the fact that his war gratuity was £5 rather than the £3 awarded to those who only served during WWI. However, he must have left the army by 1911 as he is shown in the 1911 census living at 4 Furze Hill Common, Silton with his mother Jane, stepfather and half- brother and he was employed as a labourer.

Daniel went to France soon after the outbreak of war and on 12th October the 1st battalion was holding part of the front line near Pont Fixe, a bridge over the La Bassee Canal when it came under a heavy German counter-attack.  The heroic fighting at Pont Fixe cost the 1st Dorsets some 150 killed, 122 wounded and over 150 missing.

The fact that Daniel died only two months after the war began also indicates that he had served previously and so would have been among the reservists who were re-called as soon as the war began.

Daniel’s wages of £5 9s 2d and war gratuity of £5 were shared between his mother, four brothers, four sisters and half- brother – 10s/11d each.

He is remembered on Le Touret memorial in France and on the memorial tablet in Silton Church.

Entry posted 1 July 2024 (LG)


SUTER, Seth and Richard Samuel

18183 Private Seth Suter 3rd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry died 12 June 1918 whilst serving in Ireland.

12457 Lance Corporal Richard Samuel Suter  A Company, 7th Battalion Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire Regiment died of wounds in France on 4 November 1918.

Seth and Richard Suter were brothers, the sons of Seth and Mary Suter of Silton. Seth and Mary were both widowed when they married in 1879 and had children by their previous marriages. Seth was 20 years older than Mary. In 1891 they were living at Waterloo Road, Silton with their children Florence 16 (daughter of Mary), Rosanna 8, Seth 4 and Ernest 2. Seth senior was a farm labourer.

Another child Richard Samuel was born in 1894 and Seth senior died in 1899. In 1901 Mary was living with her children Rosanna 18, Seth 14, Ernest 12 and Richard 7. Rosanna was a dressmaker and Seth a stable boy and groom.

In 1911 Mary and her children were living at Church Cottage, Silton. Rosanna was still a dressmaker. Both Seth 24 and Richard 18 were employed as domestic gardeners and Ernest 22 was a farm labourer.  Seth was employed by Rev. AL Barnes-Lawrence and in addition to his duties as gardener and groom he was a bell ringer, clerk and choirman at Silton Parish Church.

On 11 January 1916 at Silton Church Seth Suter 29 married Jane Ann Sissens 33 a housemaid at Silton Rectory. Jane Ann came from Cranswick in Yorkshire and accompanied Rev. Barnes-Lawrence and his wife when they moved from Yorkshire to Silton in 1905. According to a report in The Western Gazette of 21 June 1918 Seth was rejected as unfit for military service from 1915 until 1917 because of his heart weakness. However, in March 1918 he was placed in Grade 1. Although he was exempted on appeal by the Shaftesbury Tribunal this exemption was swept away under the stringent conditions of the National Service Act.

On 18 May 1918 Seth joined the 3rd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry which was the training unit through which recruits passed and which was based in Ireland at that time. Three weeks later he died at Hollywood Barracks from heart disease after he contracted influenza. The Western Gazette of 21 June 1918 reported that his body was conveyed from Ireland to Silton under military escort and that over 200 relatives and friends attended Seth’s funeral at Silton Church where he is buried.

Seth’s widow Jane Ann returned to Yorkshire. In 1939 she was living at her former family home with her brother and his wife and was helping with the evacuation of school children. She died in Yorkshire in 1943 and is buried at Silton Church with her late husband Seth.

See Memorial below.

Richard Samuel Suter, born 1893, was the youngest brother of Seth. Richard joined the 7th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment and first went to France in September 1915. After two months in the trenches the battalion went to Salonika and fought on the Bulgarian front in 1916 before going to Greece in 1917. In 1918 the battalion returned to France and Richard died of wounds there on 4 November 1918, just one week before the war ended. He is buried at Bussigny Communal Cemetery Extension which is southwest of Cambrai.   (See photo below). 

Richard was awarded the 1915 Star, British and Victory medals. His mother Mary received his wages of £27 12s 9d and a war gratuity of £24 10s.

Ernest George Suter, brother of Seth and Richard, also served during WWI; in Mesopotamia according to an article in The Western Gazette dated 22 November 1918. He later became parish clerk at Silton and died in 1963. Mary Suter, mother of the brothers, died at Bourton in 1934.

Bussigny Communal Cemetery extension.

Entry posted 1 July 2024 (LG)


WEST John Walter

27640 Private John Walter West, 1st Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, was killed in action on 8 May 1917 in France.

John Walter West was born at Silton in 1880, the eldest child of carpenter Stephen West and his wife Emily.

In 1881 the family were living in Silton. In 1891 John was living in Fantley Lane, Silton with his parents and younger siblings Barham & Emily Rhoda and they were still there in 1901.

John’s father died in 1906 and in 1911 John was still living in Fantley Lane with his mother and brother and was employed as a labourer.  

John enlisted at Gillingham but details of his army service aren’t known. It is possible that he went to France with 1st/5th battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in May 1916. He was killed in action on 8 May 1917 at the second Battle of Arras which took place between 9 April and 16 May 1917.  He was 40 years of age.

His mother Emily had died in March 1917, just before he was killed.  

A war gratuity of £4 and wages of £6 6s 4d were paid to sister Emily and brother Barham.

John West is remembered on the Arras Memorial and on the tablet in Silton Church where his name is shown as Jehu Walter West. 

Entry posted 1 July 2024 (LG)


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