Private 41030 Herbert Cary


This is believed to be Herbert Cary. This image comes from the WW1 photo montage in Worstead church and was identified by a relative.

This is my first blog of 2017 and looks at a Centenary event from 1917 which records the death of a man from Worstead. When I came to the village with my family in October 2000 I saw that there were two war graves in the churchyard. I wanted to learn about those men and also about the men recorded on the war memorial in the church. This eventually led to my first book being published on that subject in 2012.

Herbert Cary was the son of Louis and Rebecca Cary and he was one of four sons, Louis senior, Charlie, Bernard and Percy. They are listed as living in Reymerstone in Norfolk at the turn of the century and worked as farmers. In 1911 he was living in Worstead and was employed as a gardener. He was married to Florence Louisa Cary and had two daughters Florence and Alice.

Herbert has been a bit of an anomaly because, although he is one of two men buried in the churchyard, there is very little info to go on him. We know, through his gravestone, that he contracted a fever whilst on active service and that he died at St Andrew’s Hospital in Norwich on the 3rd January 1917. So what follows is an abridged account of what his regiment was up to prior to his death.


St Andfrew’s hospital where Herbert died on 3rd January 1917.

Herbert had initially joined the Norfolk Regiment serving with them as Private 20908 Cary. But he was one of thirteen men that were posted in block to the Essex Regiment. Herbert ended up in the 2nd Battalion which was a pre-war regular battalion that was part of the 12th Brigade in the 4th Division. They had trained in Norfolk predominantly around Cromer and Norwich before moving onto Harrow and landed at Le Harve on the 28th August 1914 and had seen almost continuous action all through 1914 and 1915.

Obviously during this time they had incurred casualties and we know that Herbert did not join them until sometime in 1916. By that time they were on the Somme and the 4th Division saw action on the 1st July 1916 when they attacked a German strong-point known as the Quadrilateral. The 2/Essex lost many men in this advance to German counter battery fire and the 4th Division as a whole lost 4,692 men killed, wounded or missing on that day alone.

Herbert would have been a replacement for the men lost at this time and he would have therefore more than likely to seen action in the later stages of the Somme offensive. At some point it seems that he contracted an illness that was quite endemic in the trenches. This was either ‘Trench Fever’, which was a type of typhus which was contracted from the lice that plagued the soldiers in the war. Or we are looking at him contracting an illness where it is possible he contracted something like pneumonia. On the louse there is a bug which has been described as being central between a virus and a bacterium in size named Rickettsia Quintana. This got into the soldier’s body by way of the bloodstream and the symptoms are described thus,

‘…the incubation period could be as short as 5 days but as long as 21 days before symptoms were present. The symptoms would come on very quickly, the victim would develop back and headaches, the eyes would become congested and rigors would develop. The site of the bite could ulcerate, even become gangrenous, and the lymph nodes on that side of the body would swell up. The victim would then develop a very high temperature of 100 plus degrees. On the 4th -5th day a rash would develop on the chest, abdomen and the limbs. The nervous system would be involved now, the victim would become apathetic and listless by day, and by night delirious, bumbling etc, the disease lasts about 14-21 days if untreated.’

Tue., Dec 12, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches. Left of Battn on S. edge of SALLISEL. Weather very bad. Efforts concentrated on fighting the rain. No material available. Inter-communication impossible except at night. Casualties 1 O.R. missing, 2 O.R. wounded.

Wed., Dec 13, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches as above. Casualties to F.A. (Field Ambulance) 25 O.R. Killed 1 O.R. Missing 2/Lt H.W. Carter, 46 O.R.

Thu., Dec 14, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches as above. Casualties to F.A. 34 O.R. Previous by reported missing now reported killed 1 O.R. Rejoined 2 O.R.

Fri., Dec 15, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches. Frost. Ground harder. Relieved by DUKES. Relief complete about 11.0 p m Duck boards laid about ½ way between road and front line. Casualties:- Previously Repd missing now to F.A. 2/Lt Carter to F.A. 14 O.R. wded 1 O.R.

Sat., Dec 16, 1916 COMBLES, FRANCE

Reserve:- Two Coys “A” & “C” in dug outs near Bde Hd Qrs. 2 Coys “B” & “ D” cellars in COMBLES. Conditions of last tour were worse than any previously experienced by the Battn. A number of men treated by the M.O. besides those admitted to F.A. Men dried & fires lit in all dug-outs and cellars. Casualties To F.A. 16 O.R.


Herbert’s grave in Worstead churchyard. He is buried with his wife Florence and behind the headstone a stone has been laid to his two daughters Alice and Florence.

So just in this period alone he could have contracted an illness. Whatever the circumstances he was sent home and ended up back in Norfolk. Between 1st December 1916 and 315th January 1917 he was one of 27 men who became a fatality serving with the battalion. A large majority of those men are listed as having ‘Died’ or ‘Died at Home’ which in this case means they would have died of illness.

Although this must have been a terrible time for his wife and young daughters at least they would have got to see him before he died and I feel Herbert’s story just highlights that not every soldier died from the result of going over the top.

Herbert’s grave can be found in the northwest end of Worstead churchyard where he is buried with his wife and two daughters.


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