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William Alford Membery 

SLI badge
Somerset Light Infantry
6th Battalion
Lance Corporal 19832
Died 29th September 1916

William Membery's Parents

William Membery (junior) was born to parents William (senior) and Agnes (nee Alford).

William John Harris Membery (William senior, who seems to have gone by the name of ‘John’) was from the village of Stanton Drew in the Chew valley and the ‘Harris’ portion of his name is his mother’s maiden name. In 1891 he was living with his sister Alice and her husband, Henry North, at  Westmoreland Place East, which is now the part of Cheltenham Street that runs perpendicular to the Lower Bristol Road (thanks to Keith Jones for identifiying where this address was!). William (senior) was a plasterer at this time and had a brief moment of infamy in May 1891; he was fined one shilling after his truck caused an obstruction in the Lower Bristol Road.

Agnes Alford was born in 1866 in Bath, the daughter of tailor Philip Alford, whose family home was at 11 Kingsmead Square, occupying one apartment in a Georgian town house which made way for the later creation of New Street. The family had made the news in 1861 when an elderly woman – a ‘hop-gatherer on the tramp’ – was caught stealing an umbrella from their apartment.

In 1871 Agnes, aged 5, was already a scholar, probably at the Bathforum School in Monmouth Street. By 1881 the family had moved to nearby Bridewell Lane (which runs between Westgate Street and Upper Borough Walls); at this time Agnes (15) is listed as having ‘no occupation’. But ten years later (1891) she was listed as a domestic cook at a home in Upper Oldfield Park – then called ‘The Hern’ but now called ‘Moreton’ – along with two other staff serving the household of a Mr Arney Stace.

Seems her father Philip Alford died 1887 aged 83

Martha died 1896 aged 69 

William (senior) and Agnes were married in 1892 in the Abbey & St James parish of Bath.

The Membery Family

William's father John was a plasterer. With the building boom taking place in the 1890s in what is now the Oldfield park area, there would have been plenty of work for a skilled worker of this type.
Membery tree

William (junior) was born in 1893 and took his mother’s maiden name ‘Alford’ as his second given name.

From 1894-1900, the family is listed as living at 50 West Avenue, where Frederick and Edward were born. William would therefore have walked from here to school in the first years of his schooling. 

50 West Avenue

50 West Avenue, where William spent the early years of his childhood

In 1901 the family moved to 23 Lymore Avenue and this remained the parental home right up until the 1940s.

23 Lymore Avenue

When William was eight years old, the family moved to 23 Lymore Avenue, which meant that William had an even shorter walk to school.

During the early years of the 1900s we form a picture of William Membery as an astute scholar of scripture, from the numerous fleeting mentions among long lists of prizewinners printed in the local newspaper. William gained scripture certificates from the Bath Sunday School Union, which linked up non-conformist churches from across Bath and show that the Membery family were in attendance at Oldfield Park Wesleyan (Methodist) Church. William  also won the Lady Tweedmouth scripture prize at school in 1905, with Harold Swain second.  The results was reversed the following year!

OP Methodist church

Oldfield Park Methodist Church before its conversion to flats. A new house has now replaced the tin church hall.  [Image: commons.wikipedia.org]

In 1911, William's father John was still working as a house plasterer and William (aged 17) was a clerk to a trunk maker. Frederick (15) was an office boy at a ‘shorthand and printing works’ (most likely Pitman Press, Lower Bristol Road) and younger brother Edward (11) was still at school.

We know from the report of the unveiling of the memorial plaque at South Twerton (in 1920, see main page) that William Membery was an accomplished organist who played at Walcot Wesleyan (Methodist) chapel (now the Nexus Methodist church). The Bath Chronicle also contains a report of William playing John S. Witty’s 1910 cantata “From Manger to Cross” on the organ in the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel (on the Vineyards, now the Museum of Bath Architecture) on the occasion of an Easter service in 1912 (when he was just 19!). If you are interested in this composition, a version can be seen – with accompanying organ music – here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-y-81BMLA4).  

William’s younger brother Edward was also an organist with the Oldfield Park Brotherhood; this was a non-conformist men’s society that brought together men from the Oldfield Park Baptist and Methodist churches.

BIT16562 Walot Methodist Church

The Walcot Methodist Church, where William Membery was organist. [Source: Bath In Time]

William Membery in WW1

Somerset Light Infantry

William served with the 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. He does not appear on an October 1914 list in the Bath Chronicle of South Twerton old boys who had enlisted by that date, although  this  is by no means categorical evidence of anything.  William's serial number 19832 comes some way after that of George Collins (10192), who was also with the 6th SLI. It would be good to have more information on the dates that serial numbers were issued.

There is also more work to do to understand the movements of the SLI  6th Battalion and the part played by William Membery in the war.

William's medal card tells us that he first entered a 'Theatre of War', in this case France, on 28th December 1915 and shows his progression from Private to Lance Corporal (but no date for this promotion). At a meeting of the Bath Organists Association on 30th October 1915, mention was made of William Membery being in the Army.

William Membery's Death

L/Cpl William Membery's medal card shows that he died of wounds on 30th September 1916, two months after the death of his SLI 6th comrade George Collins.


William Membery is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

 "During the First World War, the area around Etaples was the scene of immense concentrations of Commonwealth reinforcement camps and hospitals. It was remote from attack, except from aircraft, and accessible by railway from both the northern or the southern battlefields. In 1917, 100,000 troops were camped among the sand dunes and the hospitals, which included eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot, could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick. In September 1919, ten months after the Armistice, three hospitals and the Q.M.A.A.C. convalescent depot remained.

The cemetery contains 10,771 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, the earliest dating from May 1915. 35 of these burials are unidentified."

Etaples military cemetery
Etaples military cemetery [Source :www.cwgc.org]

William Membery's grave was visited in 2017 by Mike Sumsion on one of his visits to the graves of Bath's fallen servicemen. Mike has kindly supplied this photograph:

William Membery grave at Etaples


 William Membery's medal card shows that he received the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal 1914-18 and the Allied Victory Medal posthumously.

1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Allied Victory Medal
1914-15 StarBritish War Medal 1914-18Allied Victory Medal


Membery on South Twerton memorial

In addition to his commemoration on the South Twerton School memorial, William Membery is commemorated as follows:

Bath War Memorial

See separate page for details of the Bath War Memorial. William Membery's inscription:

Membery on Bath War Memorial

Walcot Methodist Church Memorial

William Membery is also commemorated in the church where he was organist before the war. This church features few plaques and memorials, but the WW1 memorial is on the right-hand wall to the side of the platform:

Walcot Methodist memorial

Oldfield Park Methodist Church Memorial (now at Southdown Methodist)

Oldfield Park Methodist Church stood at the western end of the Triangle in Oldfield Park but was recently converted to accommodation. The congregation merged with that at Southdown Methodist Church, The Hollow. The WW1 memorial plaque has been saved and is now on display (as is the church's WW2 memorial) at the Southdown church. Sadly, the church has not seen fit to display the plaque in the body of the church or even in the vestibule. It is tucked away in a corridor, but church members will be happy to take you to it.

William Membery is commemorated on the plaque along with two other South Twertonites Albert Hole and Arthur Naish:

OP Methodist Memorial

Ascension Church Memorial

As a parishioner of the Ascension Church, William Membery's name is inscribed on the oak tablet in the Church (see separate page for details of the Ascension Church Memorial):

Membery on Ascension Memorial

Further Information

Living relatives

It would be great to hear from any living relatives of William Membery. We don't know much about  any family/children of William's two brothers Frederick & Charles, except that Frederick may have married Agnes Cox in Bristol in 1921. 

Please get in touch!

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