Regiment: 11th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment
Died: 24 April 1918
Merton Memorial Plaque
Unlike many of his comrades, Private Frederick J Blight made it home from the Western Front, although he was seriously wounded and died of his injuries a few months later.
Census records show that the young Frederick was the son of William Blight, a wheelwright and carpenter living in the village of Merton. Before the war, he became a postman. He signed up for military service soon after hostilities were declared, and there is a local newspaper report from the time which tells of his life and death: “There has been a considerable amount of sickness in the village during the last few weeks, measles being especially prevalent.
“It is with great regret we have to announce the death of Mr Fred Blight, who passed away on Wednesday night. Deceased may be said to have given his life for the country’s cause. Joining the Army in the early days of the war, he had a varied career, until finally becoming a machine-gunner. He was wounded in July, 1916, an enemy shell dropping near his position, dislodged the whole emplacement, rendering him unconscious for a considerable time, and so injuring his constitution that he was discharged in April, 1917.
“He has been home about three months, and the end was not unexpected. Prior to joining the Forces he was engaged as a postman in the village, and was greatly liked for his obliging manner and the way he carried out his duties. He was an active member of the United Methodist cause at Merton, from which place he has been greatly missed.
“The funeral took place at the Siloam Chapel on Monday, Rev F.H.S. Clapp officiating. The first part of the service was conducted at the U.M. Chapel, Merton. The coffin, which was of polished oak, bore the inscription: Frederick James Blight, died April 24th, aged 23 years, being borne to the grave (which was lined with moss and daisies) by F. Marshall, C. Ford, C. Stacey, G. Stribling.
“Wreaths were sent by father and mother, brother and sister, Stephen, Annie and Alice, Aunt Bessie, Uncle Tom and cousins, Aunt Hettie, Uncle Tom and cousins, Uncle and Aunt, E. and P. Pascoe, all cousins at Bideford, Mary and Willie, Ada and Eva, all at Eastwood, Mr and Mrs C. Martin, Mr. And Mrs. Ching and family, Newberry, C. And A. Morrish, Mrs. Stribling and family, Mrs. R. Stacey and family, Mrs. Ford and family, Merton, Claude Ford, Jack Bissett, Harry Bright, edie and Meg. Bissett, Neil Stacey, Flo Levereton, Pollie Balch, Z. And L. Bright all at Merton. A funeral sermon will be preached at the U.M. Church, Merton, on Sunday next.”
Private FJ Blight is not recorded as a casualty of war by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, although judging by the newspaper report, his local community certainly regarded him as such. He is remembered with honour on the memorial in the church at Merton. He is buried at Langtree Village near Merton, where his gravestone can be seen.
It bears the inscription: “Machine Gunner in the European War, Wounded in the Somme, France, July 1916. Passed Peacefully away at Merton April 24th 1918. Aged 22 Years. Life’s Labour Done as sinks the clay; Light from its Load the Spirit Flies; While Heaven and Earth Combine to Say; How blest the Righteous when he die.”
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