Private Henry William Coombs,
7243, 89th Coy, Machine Gun Corp (Infantry) who died on 4th July 1916
Private Walter Henry Coombs
has proved very difficult to research and I have spent
many hours over the last 5 years trying to put together a picture of this Great
The name, Pte W Coombs, as it appears on the
war memorial, gives us few clues, so I am grateful that the
ROLL OF HONOUR in
the Wesleyan Chapel was more revealing. There is listed: WALTER H. COOMBS, R.I.P. - 8th
WILTS and below is listed R. HERBERT COOMBS, 12th
HANTS - Were these two men related?
The Church ROLL of HONOUR shows these men with
their full names of WALTER HENRY COOMBES and RICHARD HERBERT COOMBES
with surnames spelt with an e before the s. The Chapel ROLL of HONOUR
has the correct spelling as I have fond out.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
database lists only one soldier with the name of Walter Coombs and the
accompanying information states he was born in Fulham and enlisted in London. I
have researched this man thoroughly and have satisfied myself that he and his
family had no connection with West Grimstead.
I did find that Henry Walter Coombs had joined the
Dorset Regiment in September 1914 but was discharged November 1914 as
being unlikely to make a good soldier. His father was named as Henry
Commonwealth War Graves
Commission database and other WW1 records I located a soldier by the name
Henry William Coombs 7243 of the Machine Gun Corps, 89th Company, formerly 22186
of the Wiltshire Regiment who was killed in action 4 July 1916. With no
known grave this soldier is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial on Pier and Face
5C and 12C.
I then checked with The Wardrobe Museum,
the Museum of the Royal Gloucestershire and
Wiltshire Regiments, in Salisbury Cathedral Close and was told that they have
on their database, a Private HW Coombs, 22186,
listed as being born in Dean, Hampshire. But no Walter H. Coombs.
So I then researched all the possible
computations of the name Walter H Coombs, also with the surname spelt
Coombes, in all the available records for the First World War and still I
could not find a soldier that had any connection with West Grimstead. Somebody knew him
and knew him to have died during the war. There must have been some family
connection to this village and I needed to find it.
1901 Census Returns
provided me with a family that looked promising. Living in Lockerley were
Henry and Martha Coombs with their two sons Walter and Herbert. Walters
place of birth was entered as 'Dean, Hants' I subsequently was able to
find the birth certificates of these to boys. I then found that Martha
Coombs died in March 1903. Her widower, Henry remarried later that year to
a lady whose first name was Ann.
Could Electoral Registers help? Looking at West Grimstead and the surrounding
villages in the Register of Electors for 1911 and 1915 they show no people by
the name of Coombs as voters in West Grimstead. But the 1918 register for the
village has more positive results. It lists Henry Coombs and his wife Ann
Coombs. Helpfully, the 1918 register also lists absent voters and listed
Richard Coombs, N/M (Naval/Military). Here was a definite connection.
I became certain that this was the family of Private Walter H Coombs and
he was the Private Henry William Coombs, 7243, 89th Coy, Machine Gun Corp
(Infantry) who died on 4th July 1916 as found on all the available
databases showing the soldiers who were killed in action in WW1, but how
could I prove this.
Recently I have been able to access the
UK ARMY REGISTERS OF SOLDIERS EFFECTS 1901 - 1929 and I finally found this
You can see his name as Coombs, Henry William alias Walter
Henry. His fathers name is Henry and his stepmother Ann is also shown.
All the other information is shown makes the connection complete. His medal
index card shows both his Wiltshire Regimental number of 22186 and his MGC
So, finally, I can say that our soldier was registered
at birth as Walter Henry
Coombs but possibly preferred to be known as Henry. At least twice, he wrote
his name officially as Henry Walter Coombs, once on the 1911 census return and once in
1914 when he enlisted in the Dorset regiment. He was discharged from the
Dorset Regiment as unfit only two months after
enlisting. By 1918 his parents were living in West Grimstead
and so is remembered on our village War Memorial with the two Rolls of Honour
having a more complete identity. Walter Henry Coombs joined the Wiltshire Regiment and was
recorded as Henry William Coombs either as a clerical error or as a deliberate
action on his part. He later went with the 89th Coy, Machine Gun Corp (Infantry)
number 7243 and is listed as H.W. Coombs by the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission as being killed in action on the 4th July 1916 with
no known grave but remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. His brother
Herbert Coombs (Roll of Honour) and he was the son of Henry William and Martha
Coombs. Born in Dean, Hampshire in 1894, his early years were lived in Lockerley, Hampshire.
By 1902/3 he and his family had all moved to Bowerchalke
in Wiltshire. By 1911 Walter Henry had moved to Worthing, Sussex and
was working as an errand boy. In September 1914 he enlisted with the
Dorset Regiment and put his address as Lockerley, Hampshire. Two
years later he was to join the Wiltshire Regiment giving his name as Henry
Click here to see detailed Research Information