William Henry Hunt was born on 22nd May, 1887 at Llantwit Fardre, Llantrisant, Glamorganshire. He was the eighth of 12, children to Henry Hunt and Elizabeth (Rullins).
Henry was born in Misterton, Somerset in c.1840 and was employed as a navvy, engaged in railway construction, and his work took him to various parts of the country.
His ‘wife’ Elizabeth (Lizzie) was born in Penryn, Cornwall c.1844, but no record of this marriage could be found. In the book ‘The Railway Navvies’ by Terry Coleman, it seems that many of these communities lived by their own rules. If there was ever a marriage it might have been an informal affair. There are, however, ample records of baptisms of their many children.
At the time of the 1891 census the Hunt family were living at Machen Upper, Newport, Monmouthshire.
Henry died of tuberculosis at the Huts, Cwm yr Aber, Eglwysilan, Glamorgan on 24th January, 1892, aged about 52. After Henry’s death Elizabeth (Lizzie) later married, or lived with, John Brown, a dock contractor’s labourer, of Basingstoke, Hants, but no record of this marriage could be found either. At the time of the 1911 census they were living at 37, Spring Street, Landport, Portsmouth.
After his father’s death, William was adopted by a Mr Samuel Cottle, a foreman ganger (navvy) and his wife Charlotte who resided in South Shields, Durham. The 1901 census revealed they were living at 87, Denmark Street, Durham, and William was aged 13 and employed as a general labourer. By the 1911 census William had moved to Flint and was a lodger at 44, Mount Street, the home of Mr and Mrs Edward John Bellis, and was employed as a labourer at the local chemical works.
On 4th December, 1911 William married Phoebe Catherine Jones at the Register Office, Birkenhead. William’s occupation was given as dock labourer, but eight months later the couple had moved back to Flint, and were living at 4, Johnson Street, the home of her parents Joseph and Catherine, where Phoebe was born. Before the marriage Phoebe was employed as a servant to a provision merchant in Liscard, Wallasey.
William and Phoebe had a son named Samuel George Cottle Hunt (1912–1981). They also adopted the natural daughter of Phoebe’s sister Maria, also named Phoebe Catherine Jones, who was born in 1904.
William had been working as a labourer when he enlisted in Wrexham on 25th March, 1918 and his medical report stated he was 5 ft8ins, 140lbs, a chest measurement of 37ins and his physical development was good. He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.
His service record is as follows: posted to Derby, 27th March, 1918; posted to 3rd SA Brigade at Prees Heath, Shropshire, 10th April, 1918; posted to France, 4th June, 1918; joined 32nd Siege Battery, 9th July, 1918.
Gunner Hunt was wounded in action resulting in his death on 26th August, 1918 at the 88th Field Ambulance, France.
He was buried in the La Kreule Military Cemetery, Hazebrouck, France (Plot III, Row C, Grave 3).
He is remembered on the Flint Town war memorial and the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor. He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Phoebe was awarded a widow’s pension of 25s 5d per week for herself and her two children, with effect from the 10th March, 1919.
William’s mother, Lizzie, died in Port Talbot in the early 1930s, and would have been well into her 80s.
Phoebe was residing at 159, Prince of Wales Avenue, Flint, when she died on 15th June, 1948, aged 69. She is buried in the Old London Road Cemetery with her son Samuel and his wife Doris.