William Brant was born in 1877, the fourth child of David and Jane Brant. His father was an agricultural labourer and the family lived in West Heath, Cove. William’s mother died in 1890 when he was just 13 and in 1891 the family were living in Church Crookham where William was employed as an errand boy. William probably joined the army in 1896 and sometime after 1901his father, step-mother and younger siblings returned to West Heath, Cove where they were recorded in the 1911 census.
The circumstances of William Brant’s death, in 1916, were recorded in the Aldershot News as follows:
“Death of Corporal W Brant
We deeply regret to announce the death of Corporal W Brant, Military Police, who contracted double pneumonia and died last week after being in hospital for two days only. The deceased soldier, who was 38 years of age, and had served 20 years in the Army, was just to be promoted sergeant, and was on leave preparatory to proceeding to Egypt.
On Monday last the deceased was accorded a military funeral, which took place at Cove Church (Rev. W. R. Williams, M.A.) officiating. The military escort and the buglers, who sounded the Last Post, consisted of men of the Middlesex Regiment.
Much sympathy is felt for the relatives, who quite recently lost the deceased’s brother, James, who was killed in an accident.
Mr George Brant, H.M.S. “Southampton”, another brother of the deceased, was present, being on leave after taking part in the great naval battle of the North Sea.”
Aldershot News, June 16, 1916
William Brant’s service records have not survived and so the details in this newspaper report are the only information available at present to supplement that to be found in the HMSO publication ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.
William’s Military Police service number relates to enlistment in April 1908 and so he must have served for 12 years in another regiment before joining the Military Foot Police. This seems to have been quite a usual route into the Military Police at the time. Most probably he signed on about April 1896 (when he would have been about eighteen and a half) for ‘Seven and Five’ – seven years of military service with the Colours and then five years in the Reserve; he may then have extended his service with the Colours to the full
twelve years, giving the total of 20 years service noted in the obituary report. As a Hampshire resident, William may have served initially with the Hampshire Regiment but whatever regiment he served with it is likely that he spent several years overseas and could have seen active service in South Africa during the Boer War. William was preparing to go overseas for the first time since the Great War had started when he was taken ill and died.
The reference to William’s brother in the Aldershot News report also reminds us that there were many local men who saw action in the Great War and survived. The ‘great naval battle of the North Sea’ is, of course, the Battle of Jutland which had taken place just two weeks earlier. Southampton was a light cruiser which was heavily engaged in the action; she torpedoed and sank one German ship and was herself heavily damaged.
Corporal William Brant died in Connaught Hospital, Aldershot and was buried in St John’s churchyard on 12 June 1916. The date of death recorded by the CWGC and inscribed on the headstone is an error.