b. 31/05/1895 Bristol. d. 19/01/1932 Bristol.
Frederick George Room (1895-1932) was born at 42 Oak Road, Horfield, Bristol on 31st May 1895. His father, William James, was a Welshman, and a railway labourer. He married Bertha Eaton Rees in 1889 in Bedminster, Somerset. William moved jobs on numerous occasions. William and Bertha had five children with Frederick having two brothers and two sisters.
Frederick was educated at Whitehall Council School, Bristol and was a member of St Ambrose Company, 1st Bristol Cadet Battalion, Church Lads’ Brigade, affiliated to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was employed by Mardon, Son & Hall’s wagon works and later by the Western Engineering Co, Orchard Street, Bristol as a metal turner.
Frederick tried to join the Royal Engineers at Colston Hall, Bristol at the outbreak of the Great War, but was not accepted. He enlisted on 29th August 1914, joining Southern Command Cavalry Depot at Bristol on 1st September and 10th Reserve Cavalry Regiment (4th Hussars) on 3rd September. He transferred to 3rd Royal Irish Regiment on 2nd June 1915 and was posted to the Curragh and then to the 2nd Battalion in France on 26th July, joining it on 30th July as a stretcher-bearer. He was shot in the right hand at Mametz on the Somme on 1st July 1916 and was treated at 23rd Field Ambulance, 11th Stationary Hospital at Rouen from 3rd July and 2nd Convalescent Depot at Etaples from 5th July. He was recommended for the Military Medal for his actions during the Battle of Messines Ridge on 7th June 1917. He was then promoted to Lance Corporal on 11th August 1917.
On 16th August 1917 at Frezenberg, Belgium, when the company which was holding a line of shell-holes and short trenches had many casualties, Lance-Corporal Room was in charge of the stretcher-bearers. He worked continuously under intense fire, dressing the wounded and helping to evacuate them. Throughout this period, with complete disregard for his own life, he showed unremitting devotion to his duties.
He was granted ten days’ leave in October and appointed unpaid acting Corporal on 30th October. On 4th November he was granted one month’s special leave, during which he was presented with his VC by King George V at Durdham Down, Bristol on 8th November. Following the investiture he was given a civic reception even though he wanted to avoid the fuss. He repeatedly refused to do any interviews.
Frederick began to suffer from heart palpatations and in October 1918 suffered shock from an aeroplane bomb that caused a recurrence of the heart issues. He also contracted influenza on 24th October. He was evacuated to Britain on 12th November, suffering from breathlessness and pain in his chest. He was admitted to Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight, Lancashire suffering from tachycardia. He moved to two more hospitals before the end of the year.
On 14th January 1919, Frederick was assessed as 20% disabled, which was likely to persist for 12 months, and was transferred to a military hospital in Bath. He was one of five Bristol VCs presented with inscribed gold watches and illuminated addresses at Colston Hall on 15th February. He was discharged to the Class Z Reserve on 5th March 1919. He was employed by Thrissell Engineering Co, Bristol. He married Ellen Elizabeth Sargent on 2nd August 1919 at St Michael’s Church, Tiverton, Bath. They had no children.
Frederick had to give up work in the early 1930s due to failing health. His lungs were badly affected by his war experiences and he was hospitalised with acute pneumonia. Ellen refused all offers of help and took a job while nursing him at their home. He continued to deteriorate and was admitted to Ham Green Sanatorium in Bristol at the end of 1931, and he died there on 19th January 1932. He was buried in Greenbank Cemetery. A marble headstone, provided by ex-service organisations, was placed there in May 1933. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals were presented to the National Army Museum in 1966, where they are held. They are not currently on display.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM, CHELSEA, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: GREENBANK CEMETERY, BRISTOL, AVON. SECTION 41 - PINK - K
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
War Illustrated, 10th November 1917