Served with 7th (Service) Battalion (K2) Somerset Light Infantry (SLI)

61st Infantry Brigade.  20th Light Division

Killed in action 26 September 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres

Commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial, Passendaele, Ypres,

West Flanders, Belgium.  Panels 41 - 42 & 163A

Wilfred was from a local family, his great grandparents being James and Maria (nee Stone) Bawden who were married at Woolavington on 15 April 1820.  They had four children between 1820 and 1828 the third being James, baptised in Woolavington on 22 November 1825.  He married Ann Beak in April 1850, also in Woolavington and in turn they had a typically fairly large family of seven children between 1851 and 1865. Their second son John married a girl from Puriton in about 1885.  And so we come to Wilfred who was the youngest of their five children and was baptised at Woolavington on 1 July 1894.  Perhaps it was because all his ancestors had been labourers, so typical for the time,  that Wilfred saw army service as a way to escape the dull routine of rural labour.   

As he was relatively young when he was apparently called up, rather than being a volunteer - his medal record shows he was only entitled to the British and Victory medals - i.e. not the 14/15 Star. As there is no record of him marrying it appears he was a ‘care free bachelor' as he set out to serve his country. Wilfred’s 7th Battalion of the SLI moved to France in July 1917 and were soon involved in front line fighting.

However, after being involved with this for some time, the 7th Battalion had a quieter few days from mid August at the nearby village of Proven.  But on the 8th September they were once again brought nearer the front line to relieve other troops and immediately they began to suffer some casualties. Further German attacks followed as a result of British positions being spotted by the pilots of German aircraft and The Somersets were then alternately in the front line or in reserve.

Wilfred would have been part of these activities and from the Regiment History it is possible to pinpoint his last day at the front.  “The 61st Brigade of the Division [Wilfred’s] held a line east of Langemarck when at dawn on 26th September [the day Wilfred was killed], the assault was launched farther south.  The Divisional artillery shelled the German positions in front of the 61st Brigade, to which the enemy replied vigorously, one N.C.O. and six other ranks [almost certainly including Wilfred] of the Somersets being killed and seventeen wounded.”  After further fighting and losses the 20th Division were relieved again two days later, but too late for Wilfred. 

He is commemorated at the huge Tyne Cot Memorial, Passendaele, Ypres, cemetery which bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known.

Contributed by Godfrey Hebdon

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Published 4 years ago by Project Officer - Somerset Remembers

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