Kerry Miller’s series on the sporting and social scene in Bridgwater reaches 1915, when news of casualties from the First World War are a daily occurrence.

The families and loved ones left behind as hordes of young men from Bridgwater went abroad to join the abject chaos were swiftly becoming numb to the devastating carnage.

Bridgwater Thursday FC player Private Frank Webb, attached to the Queens Westminster Rifles, was killed in France on June 4, aged 21.

The young man had been a well-liked worker at Hooper’s in the High Street before enlisting.

Bridgwater Albion RFC also lost Lieutenant Arthur Churchill of the Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regt.), as he died of wounds suffered at the front.

The son of Edward Churchill, of Sandway House, Burnham-on-Sea, he came from a well-known sporting family who had turned out for Bridgwater Albion RFC and Bridgwater AFC, and was just one of a staggering 381,982 souls who had been killed, wounded or were reported missing in the first 12 months of the worldwide conflict.

Among the modest young men from brickworks and building sites there were many scholastic names in the press each week who, prior to the outbreak, had been regulars - such as John Maxwell Edgar, the Dr Morgans schoolmaster who excelled in most sports.

The Sheffield-born 26-year-old had a MA Hons from Edinburgh University, and was injured when tossed into the air by a mortar bomb and wounded in the left arm.

He was returned to Bridgwater to recuperate and, while there, was persuaded to play at full-back in a rare rugby match at East Reach Athletic Ground in Taunton, where the Wessex Engineers took on a Bridgwater Albion XV.

In front of a small attendance, Albion won 12-3, while the Taunton United Band entertained playing “selections”.

Another ex-Albion man, Tom Woods, who had turned professional and moved to play for Rochdale Hornets, was also back home and recovering in a Manchester hospital after being shot through the hand.

His friend and fellow Bridgwater man Walter Roman, who had also made the change at Rochdale, was one of a large family, also much loved in the town and who were feted in the Mercury.

George Roman was a widower from 25 West Street who had five sons in the Army and a son-in-law in the Navy.

All had played many times for Bridgwater RFC, with Lance Corporal Walter, Sergeant Clifford, Corporal George and Driver Bill joined by Private Henry and Seaman Amos Martin.

Bridgwater Mercury:

LARGE FAMILY: The Roman family at war

The Albion RFC continued to hear of current and former players, as Trooper Alf Holman of the West Somerset Yeomanry was hit by shrapnel through the hand while fighting in Egypt.

To attempt to lighten the gloom with some positive stories, in March 1916, a story emerged of an entire football team which had enlisted and were fighting abroad.

Bridgwater Rangers AFC had men in Salonica, Egypt, India and the Persian Gulf, with others training at home in England.

The press said at the time: “…when again football is possible, no team will be able to play with greater pride than the Rangers.”

At the same time, back in Bridgwater, the cricket and bowls club at the Park held its AGM at the Golden Ball, where there was a large attendance, including secretary Bill Giles, who spoke of a deficit of £20, mainly due to the restrictions on cricket.

Subscriptions were increased to a guinea, and Lt Sammy Woods wrote to members hoping that “the club can continue for young members when they return from the war”.

On Good Friday a team comprising of staff from the Great Western Railway took on a Bridgwater XV at the Albion ground in front of a good crowd, all very grateful to able to watch some sporting action and escape the realities for a couple of hours; £6 was made to go to National Union of Railwaymen’s Orphans’ Fund.

Kicking off 45 minutes late, many of the Bridgwater men had “high foreheads and were tinged with grey” and trusted to past reputations rather than present resources, with Harry Baker, Amos Mead and Charlie Kingston all turning out and winning 8-7.

Bridgwater Mercury:

SUCCUMBED: William John 'Cogan' Phillips

Sadly, reality was never far away, and a former Bridgwater RFC player, William John Phillips, known everywhere as ‘Cogan’, died aged 40 from wounds suffered while fighting in Mesopotamia.

The former club captain was a clever forward for more than 15 years at the club, and had served in the Boer War, seeing active service with the 2nd Somersets in South Africa and India.

Sergeant Phillips was wounded in the leg but carried three men to safety at the front before recovering in hospital.

He was sent to the Dardanelles and then Mesopotamia, where he succumbed to his wounds.

Cogan Phillips was yet another from Barclay Street who was a brickyard worker.

Another ex-Albion RFC man, Lance Corporal Harry Van Trump of the 22nd Royal Fusiliers, was killed in action on May 23.

The son of the owner of Tone Vale Manufacturing Company, the 34-year old was also a member of Cannington Park Golf Club, and his rugby career was alongside Private Doug Baker - from the 8th Battalion SLI - who was killed in action having fought in France for 10 months.

The strong young forward was another from Somerset Trading Company’s brickyards, and was unmarried.

There was more tragedy as the news came through that the three Anglin brothers had all perished while fighting in the Somersets.

Lance Corporal Pat was only 19 years of age, while Private Jack was yet another prominent rugby player at the Albion club, and they died together during the British advances.

Brother Joe had already been killed, back in March 1915.

Bridgwater Mercury:

TRAGEDY: The Anglin brothers, all of whom perished in the war

Lance Corporal Walter ‘Rattler’ Roman, who was playing for the Great Britain side in Australia when war broke out, immediately rejoined the colours on his return.

On the first day of the battle of the Somme, his 36th birthday, Walter was seriously wounded in the arm, leg and thigh and was sent back to Cheltenham Hospital, where he sadly passed away almost four weeks later.

There was “widespread regret” at the passing of one of Bridgwater’s most well-loved and successful sportsmen, who left a widow and one child.

Having made his debut for Bridgwater RFC aged 16, he went on to gain many county caps before being denied international honours at union and turning to the professional code, where he made the touring side.

Back in the town, among all the work done to keep the country running, 19 wounded soldiers were entertained at the bowls club.

Those who were able to leave hospital were given tea and cigarettes, and were conveyed in a fleet of cars lent by the Royal Clarence Hotel, the Bridgwater Motor Company and William Molesworth, a businessman from Wembdon.

Various dignitaries arrived during the afternoon, to see Bridgwater BC defeat Taunton Deane by 30 points.

Readers are invited to contact email with any memorabilia or stories related to those mentioned in the series.