yeovil at War

Ancel Croydon Sansom

Died of pneumonia while on active service


Ancel Croydon Sansom was born in Honiton, Devon, in 1886 the son of bricklayer Harry Sansom (b 1857) and Elizabeth née Croydon (b 1859). In the 1891 census Harry and Elizabeth were listed living in Honiton with their children Mildred (b 1884), Ancel and Rose (b 1888). Also living with them was Elizabeth's father, Henry Croydon. In 1901 the family were still living in Honiton, Harry gave his occupation as a mason while 15-year-old Ancel gave his occupation as a domestic gardener. In 1911, still in Honiton, 25-year-old Ancel listed his occupation as an Assistant Draper and he would later put his experience to practical use by working at Redwood's store in the Borough.

In the spring of 1913 Ancel married Mabel Helena Hawkins (1881-1966) at Yeovil and the couple set up home at 8 Crofton Park. They were to have one son. However Ancel had also probably served with the Volunteer Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, or at least had some form of military experience, and was consequently a National Reservist.

Since Ancel was a member of the Yeovil Company of the National Reserve, he enlisted at Yeovil on the outbreak of war, joining the 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (Service No 16339). In fact he may, indeed, be one of the men in the first photograph below of the Yeovil Company of the National Reserve in the Borough, taken the day war was declared.

The 6th Battalion had been formed at Taunton in August 1914, becoming part of the 43rd Brigade, 14th Division at Aldershot later that year. On 21 May 1915 the 6th Battalion landed at Boulogne, France. However, at some point in time Ancel was attached to 4th Company, Army Service Corps.

The Army Service Corps was organised into Companies and provided men for the Divisional Train, Divisional Supply Column and Divisional Ammunition Park for each Division of the British Army. The Remounts Service was responsible for the supply of trained horses, whilst the Labour Corps provided men skilled in manual labour, who under took tasks such as loading and unloading supplies from trains and ships. The Pioneer Battalions took care of repairing roads and railways and army buildings.

Soldiers can not fight without food, equipment and ammunition. In the Great War, the vast majority of this tonnage, supplying a vast army on many fronts, was supplied from Britain. Using horsed and motor vehicles, railways and waterways, the Army Service Corps performed prodigious feats of logistics and were one of the great strengths of organisation by which the war was won. The Army Service Corps numbered over ten thousand officers and a third of a million men, as well as employing huge numbers of labourers from China, India and Africa along with locals.

Ancel's specific role in the Army Service Corps is unclear but he was in France for about a year and a half. He returned home on leave at Christmas 1916 but on returning to France he contracted bronchial pneumonia. He was taken to No 37 Casualty Clearing Station at Avesnes-le-Comte, Pas de Calais, France, where he died on 18 January 1917. He was aged 31.

The Western Chronicle Friday 26 January 1917 :- The sad intelligence has been received by Mrs Sansom, of 8, Crofton Park, Yeovil, that her husband, Pte Ancil Croydon Sansom of the Somerset L.I., died from broncho-pneumonia, in a Casualty Clearing Station, France, on January 18th. The deceased joined the Army in August, 1914, and after a few months training proceeded to the front with the National Reserves. Pte, Sansom was home on short leave at Christmas, and on his return he contracted broncho-pneumonia, from which he died at a Casualty Clearing Station. as above stated. He leaves a wife and little boy, with whom the deepest sympathy is felt. The late Priv. Sansom was a member of the Holy Trinity choir and a sympathetic reference was made to his death at the services on Sunday, the Dead March being played at the close of the evening service.

The following is a copy of a letter, dated January 18, 1917, received by the deceased's wife - "I am sorry that this letter will bring you sad news of your husband's death. All yesterday he was very heavy. Just slept all the time, except when taking his feeds and medicine, and last night, about 2am, he just passed away quite quietly in his sleep. As far as we know he did not really suffer much the whole time, and he was an awfully good patient. You may rest assured that even in a home hospital he would not have had more comfort and care, as we have everything out here. Of course, the hard part is that you could not be with him, but that is what the woman have to suffer from the war when they give up their loved ones to fight for their country, so you will have a look at it from the point of view of a soldier's wife. It has been a long and trying time for you. I know, and I am sorry.... Accept all our sympathy.- Yours truly, the Sister-in- charge."

The Western Gazette reported in its 26 January 1917 edition "Intimation has been received by Mrs Sansom, of 8 Crofton Park, Yeovil, that her husband, Private AC Sansom, of a Service Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, has died from illness in France. Private Sansom, who was called up with the National Reserves soon after war was declared, had been in France about 18 moths before his first home leave, and came home for Christmas. He contracted bronchial pneumonia immediately on his return, and was taken to No 37 Clearing Station where he died after about three or four weeks illness. Private Sansom was at one time employed in the outfitting department of Messrs Redwood’s, Yeovil. Much sympathy is felt with Mrs Sansom, who is left with one little boy, and also with the late Private Sansom’s parents who reside in Honiton. The late Priv. Sansom was a member of the Holy Trinity choir, and it was four weeks ago on Sunday that he sang in the choir whilst home on leave from France. On Sunday, the Vicar (the Rev S Horton Roberts) made feeling reference to his death at both morning and evening services, and appropriate hymns were sung. The “Dead March” in Saul was played at the close of the evening service. - Mrs AC Sansom and family wish to tender their sincere thanks to all kind friends for the numerous expressions of sympathy shown them in their sad bereavement."

Ancel Sansom was interred in Avesnes-Le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France, Grave III.B.19, and his name is recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough (albeit incorrectly spelt as Samson on the present plaque).




On Bank Holiday Monday, 4 August 1914, Yeovil men of the National Reservists line up in the Borough before marching to the Town Railway Station and travelling to Taunton. War was declared at midnight. As a member of the Yeovil Company of the National Reserve, Ancel is almost certainly in this photograph.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Ancel Sansom.