yeovil at War

James Walter Fone

Died of brain fever


James Walter Fone was born in Crewkerne in 1878, the son of insurance agent Edward Fone (1843-1924) and his wife Emma (1845-1906). By the time of the 1881 census Edward and Emma had moved to Yeovil and were living at 10 Queen Street with their children; Albert H (b 1869), Annie S (b 1871), Alice B (b 1872), Frederick J (b 1874), Ernest S (b 1876) and three-year-old James. The 1891 census found the family living at 10 Earle Street, Edward was now working as a Collector of market Tolls while 13-year old James was a scholar.

By 1901 James had moved to Bristol and was boarding at 11 Coronation Road, St Paul, Bristol, and was employed as a Clothier's Assistant. In the 1911 census James was boarding with Tailor & Draper James Kerr Johnson and his wife, 33-year old James was still unmarried and employed as a Clothier's Assistant.

In March 1916 James was called up and joined the 13th (Reserve) Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment - later the 46th Battalion of the Training Reserve, His Service Number was 28355.

A considerable reorganisation of the reserve infantry battalions took place on 1 September 1916. Before this date, most of the infantry regiments contained one or more reserve battalions of the regular and new armies. Recruits would be posted to these battalions for basic training, before they were posted to an active service unit. With the introduction of conscription, the regimental system simply could not cope with numbers. A new structure was put into place: the Training Reserve. The local nature of recruitment for infantry regiments was abandoned and the entire system centralised. After 1 September 1916, regimental distinctions disappeared and the reserve units of the regiments were instead re-designated as battalions of the Training Reserve. They were organised into new brigades. No Guards, Irish or Territorial battalions converted to the TR. The reorganisation did not affect affect the Special Reserve or Extra Reserve battalions of the regular army (normally the 3rd and sometimes 4th Battalions of a regiment). The official complement of the Training Reserve was a little over 208,500 soldiers. Men who were posted to the TR battalions were not allocated to any particular regiment when the time came for them to be posted. So from this time on it is not safe to assume that a recruit would serve with his local regiment. Later, from May 1917, this arrangement was itself altered when the units of the TR became Graduated and Young Soldier Battalions and were once again aligned with specific regiments.

The 46th Battalion, part of 10th Brigade, had been the 13th (Reserve) Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment and was based at Swanage, Dorset. James initially was stationed in Blandford, Dorset, for basic training before being sent to Swanage when the 46th Battalion, Training Reserve was formed in September. Unfortunately in early November 1916, while at Swanage, he contracted brain fever and was hospitalised at the Parkstone Military Isolation Hospital where he died a week later on 22 November 1916. He was aged 36.

On 1 December 1916 the Western Gazette reported "The death occurred under painful circumstances on Wednesday week of Private James Walter Fone, of the Worcester Regiment, fourth son of Mr Edward Fone and brother of Mrs R Hodges of 28 Crofton Avenue. The late Private Fone, who was 36 years of age, had been working in Bristol for about 13 years, and was called up in March of this year. Leaving Bristol he was sent to Blandford, and subsequently to Swanage, where he contracted brain fever, death taking place a week later at the Isolation Hospital, Parkstone. Previous to living in Bristol he was employed for many years as a shop assistant at Messrs. Redwoods, High Street. The funeral took place at the Cemetery on Monday afternoon, the body being conveyed from Parkstone the same day. The Rev AW Gummer Butt (pastor of the Baptist Church) officiated at the graveside and the inscription on the breast plate read - "James Walter Fone, who died at the Military hospital, Parkstone, November 22nd 1916. He was dearly loved." The mourners were :- Mr Edward Fone (father), Messrs Albert, Fred and William Fone (all of London, brothers), Mr Leslie Fone (nephew), Mr Charles Gear (of Ringwood, brother-in-law) and Mr G Walsh (of Bristol, friend). There was a large number of floral tributes, which included a beautiful wreath from the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the deceased's Regiment."

James was buried in Yeovil Cemetery, Grave B3475, and his name is inscribed on the War Memorial in the Borough.




The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of James Fone.