Hubert Williams was born in Eastleach in early 1897, the third son of John Thomas and Caroline Williams. John had been born at Clapton-on-the-Hill in 1864 and Caroline Hudson in Stratton, Wiltshire in the 1850s. By 1881, Caroline was recorded as a general servant at Hannington Vicarage, aged twenty-four. John’s family may possibly have been living at Blenheim Park where his father was a carter and John an undercarter, aged seventeen. How their paths crossed is unclear but they married in late summer 1885 and by the time of the 1891 census they were living in Eastleach with Caroline’s daughter, Edith Mary Hudson, aged seven, and John Monk, a lodger.
John Thomas was described as a labourer and was also recorded as blind. By 1901, John and Caroline had three sons, Richard Henry aged nine, Joseph aged seven and Hubert aged four, all born in Eastleach. Caroline was working at home as a laundress and John, now aged thirty-seven, had no occupation so presumably he was unable to continue working because of his blindness. It appears that towards the end of 1908, when Hubert was about eleven, his father, John, died aged forty-four. By the 1911 census, Caroline was still in Eastleach as a widow and Joseph and Hubert were farm labourers. This was the first census return completed and signed by householders rather than the enumerator and Caroline records that six children had been born alive in her “present marriage”, four were still living and two had died presumably in infancy, a common occurrence at the time.
Hubert enlisted with the 8th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment in Cirencester on or around 10th September 1915. It is possible that his two brothers may also have been in the Gloucesters but it is impossible to differentiate between several of the same name in the records as no birthplace is given for any of them. Either way, they must have returned safely.
On 7th August 1916, the Battalion detrained at Bailleul, south-west of Ypres, and marched into billets at Aircraft Farm (Dranoutre) south of Kemmel Hill. The following day there was an inspection of smoke helmets, goggles and other kit and by the evening of 10th August the Battalion was moving past Daylight Corner to relieve the North Staffordshire Regiment on the front line between Wytschaete and Messines, the Messines Ridge. This was in the very heart of the Flanders battlefields. Hubert’s war was not going to last long. It was reported in the Battalion diaries for 11th August that it “was very quiet except 4.30 – 5.30 p.m. when the enemy active with bombs and trench mortars on our support work on parapets and trench boards”. This was the day that Hubert was reported as being wounded. He would have been taken to a field hospital behind the lines and, against all odds, made it back to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Hove.
Hubert finally passed away in Hove on 23rd February 1917. He was buried on 27th February aged twenty. The Burial Register records him as being 11th Glos. Regiment and also that he died of wounds received in July 1916. His death certificate implies some type of bacterial infection – sadly, no antibiotics were available then. However, there is also a suggestion of some underlying heart condition which had been evident for eighteen months. He is only one of two of those remembered on the War Memorial who came home and he is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in Eastleach Turville churchyard.