The People Behind the Names – Alfred Henry Toms
Alfred Henry Toms was born on the 28th January 1866, he was the son of Samuel and Sally Toms of Barnstaple. Samuel Toms married Sally Gribble on the 10th June 1844, both aged 21, at this time Samuel was working as a confectioner and Sally as a domestic servant. Their first son, William Samuel Gribble Toms would be born in 1847, followed by Charles in 1851, Ellen in 1853, Clara in 1855, Frederick in 1857, Mary in 1859, Albert in 1863, then Alfred, who would have one yonger sibling, William in 1881. When Alfred was aged 13, his father was summoned to court in respect of his schooling, Samuel was represented at court by his wife Sally, who said the Alfred hadn’t been at school as he had been kept at home by illness of his father, an order was made requiring Alfred to attend school immediately at Holy Trinity, Barnstaple. In 1881 aged 14, Alfred and his family were living at Lower Church Street in Barnstaple, where Alfred is said to be employed as a chain maker, his father is still employed as a confectioner.
At 18 years of age, Alfred enlisted with the Royal Navy, his documents describe him as being ‘5ft 3, with brown hair, having a fair complexion with brown eyes and tattoos on his forearms.’ Alfred served aboard many ships, and his records indicate that he was of good character. A life in the Royal Navy gave Alfred a chance to travel, and the 1901 census shows Alfred with the Royal Navy in Vancouver. In 1902 Alfred was employed at the Barnstaple Electric Light Station. On the 20th November he would be the victim of two accidents on the same day, and on both occasions he would be taken to the North Devon Infirmary. In the morning he was treated for a cut on the head, and not long afterwards he reappeared at the institution with his left foot severely injured through a very heavy weight having fallen upon it. It was found that a bone of the foot was broken and on this occasion Alfred was detained.
In 1905 Alfred would marry Mary Ann Newcombe and start his married life living at 7 Adas Terrace in Mortehoe. Alfred was now employed as a postal worker in the village, the following year they would have a daughter Hilda May Toms. His mother, and two brothers would die before Alfred saw active service during World War 1 . Alfred was called to the Royal Navy during the First World war, as a 1st Petty officer aboard HMS Vivid, where he would die of disease on the 24th May 1918, and would be later buried in his home town of Barnstaple. His name is inscribed on the Mortehoe War memorial where he was living at the time of his death.