16059 Serjeant Bewley Alfred Thresher

9th(Service)Battalion

Devonshire Regiment

1st July 1916

Born in Weymouth Dorset on 18/05/1868.

His parents were William Mathew Bewley Thresher

(born on 01/03/1833) and Eliza Jane Rawkins(1832-1882). They were married on 22/03/1859.

He had 2 brothers; Henry(born in 1861) and

Samuel Edward(24/08/1872-1942).

Bewley also had 3 sisters;

Constance Mary(1863-1929),

Emily Kathleen(16/11/1866-1945) and

Sarah Eliza(1870-1871).

In the 1871 census the family were living at 14 Randale Terrace, Lambeth ,London. Though he wasn't listed with the family on this census, William was employed as a fruiterer(greengrocer(this information appeared on christening documents for the children)).

In the 1881 census the family had moved to Chesil Portland. No employment record was given for William ,But Eliza Jane was listed as being a dressmaker.

On 21/07/1888, Bewley enlisted into the the Royal Field Artillery. He was posted to 3rd Brigade as a gunner(27569) on 14/11/1888. His previous employment was that of stonecutter.

Due to reorganisation he was moved to 237rd Brigade on 01/07/1889.  

 In the 1891 census, Bewley was listed as a gunner with the Royal Field Artillery based at Hilsea Barracks, Portsmouth.  

He extended his service to complete 12 years with the colours on 27/12/1895.

His place of service for this time is as follows;

Home - 21/07/1888 - 28/09/1891

India - 29/09/1891 - 21/01/1898

Home - 22/01/1898 - 26/01/1900

South Africa - 27/01/1900 - 04/03/1901

Home - 05/03/1901 - 15/081901

He was awarded the South Africa campaign medal on 19/03/1903 with clasps for Wittebergen (A clasp inscribed "Wittebergen" will be granted to all troops who were inside a line drawn from Harrismith to Bethlehem, thence to Senekal and Clocolan, along the Basuto border, and back to Harrismith, between July 1st and 29th, 1900, both dates inclusive.*),Cape Colony(A clasp inscribed "Cape Colony" will be granted to all troops in Cape Colony at any time between October 11th, 1899, and a date to be hereafter fixed, who received no clasp for an action already specified in the Cape Colony nor Natal clasps.*) and South Africa 1901. 

Bewley re-enlisted on 20/10/1902 to serve"until attaining the age of 41 or until completing 21 years total service" under army order 106 of 1900.

He was posted to 111th Brigade on 20/10/1902.

He was granted class 1 service pay of 7d/week on 01/04/1904

He was absent without leave 03/11/1904

To duty 13/11/1904

Forfeited Good Conduct(GC)Badge 14/11/1904

On 10/03/1906 he married Ellen Louisa Brown(1877-1935)

Restored 1 GC Badge 01/05/1906

Forfeited 1 GC Badge 11/08/1906

Absent without leave 01/11/1906

To Duty 10/11/1906

Forfeited 1 GC Badge 10/11/1906

Reduced to class II service pay of 5d/week on 28/08/1907

Discharged 23/10/19010(Termination of engagement).

In the 1911 census , he was recorded as living at  20 Oak Field Street Heavitree,Exeter. He was listed as being an army pensioner.

Life out of the army appears to have been a bit of a struggle for Bewley as this following piece indicates;

Western GazetteFriday 11 April 1913 “A pensioner’s Lapse – Bound Over and Discharged. – Bewley Alfred Thresher (42), labourer, was indicted for breaking into the shop of Samuel Robinson at Portland, and stealing three pairs of boots, a quantity of chocolate and 3s 6d in money, between the 3rd and 4th February. – Prisoner pleaded guilty. – Mr Fitch prosecuted and mentioned that the prisoner denied that he broke into the premises as the door was wide open. -  Superintendent Saint stated that the prisoner had served 21 years in the army having been discharged in 1910 with a good character and a pension of 7s a week. He was willing to work but was unable to do heavy labour. There was nothing against him previously.

-In a statement to the court, the prisoner expressed regret for what he had done which, was brought about by sickness and starvation. He pleaded for leniency, or he might lose what little pension he had. - The chairman said the court were sorry to see a man who had served his country for 21 years with credit to himself in such a position as the prisoner stood . But his previous good character had been taken into consideration and he would be bound over to come up for judgement if called upon.”

Being part of the class 1 National Reserve when WW1 broke out,he would have been recalled to service, which on 07/09/1914 he re-enlisted at Weymouth  into the Royal Field Artillery as gunner(36179) aged 44 years 4 months.

At his medical,held on the same day , it was recorded;

Complexion - Dark

Eyes - Brown

Hair - Black

Height - 5ft 6 1/2 inches

Chest -  37 inches Expansion Range - 1 1/2 inches.

Scar above right eye.

Had been an officers servant  and a very good cook.

He joined at Hilsea Barracks Portsmouth on 04/11/1914 and on 05/11/1914 he was posted to 14th Reserve Battery.

He then deserted at Hilsea Barracks on 08/11/1914.

Bewley had still not returned when a court of enquiry took place at Hilsea Barracks on 07/1/1915.

A witness statement from 11938 Corporal A.H.Baines R.F.A. stated that "He was found to be absent from prade at 6.30am on 08/11/1914." - this is the only surviving piece of any of the witnesses statements made at this enquiry. 

No reason for his desertion is known,though it could have been connected  with around this time in his life, he and his wife separated.

Bewley then re-enlists in Gosport Hampshire as a Private(16059) in the Devonshire Regiment under the name Alfred Thresher.

His date of dis-embarkation into France was on 17/08/1915 and at some point ,probably either during or after the Battle of Loos,he was promoted to Sarjeant.

He was killed in action on 01/07/1916.

He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star,the 1914-1918 British War and Allied Victory medals.

* Clasp Information provided by www.angloboerwar.com

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