Bessie Sicilia Coombes was born in Pontypridd, South Wales, on May 15th 1910, the eldest daughter of George Coombs and Florrie House from Maiden Newton, Dorset, who had moved to South Wales to find work in the mines. George Coombes was an ex-soldier of the Dorsetshire regiment who had served in the Tirah Campaign and Bessies unusual second name came from the troopship on which he returned to England.
Bessie’s elder brother, Percy Jack Coombes, had died aout three months before she was born so she was always considered the eldest. Three more siblings were born in South Wales, Ivy Lilian (1911), Cassie (1912) and Tyra Jack (1914). Tyra Jack was named after the Tirah Campaign and oral tradition has it that it was after a night celebrating his birth in Novevember 1914 that George arrived home and announced that he had rejoined the army. Thus at the age of 4 Bessie moved to Maiden Newton where she was to spend the rest of her life.
George Coombes survived the First World War and set-up in Maiden Newton as a Boot-mender. A brother George Alexander James was born in 1919 but died less than a year later. William George arrived in 1922 and finally youngest brother Eric in 1928. On leaving school Bessie went into domestic service, working at what was then the rectory next to Maiden Newton church.
On June 26, 1930 she married Albert (Bert) Ernest Roper from Long Bredy at St. Mary ‘s Church in Maiden Newton and so began a very happy marriage. They had three children; Alan, Brian and Terry. During the Second World War Bessie worked hard washing officer’s uniforms. She also stood in the market with the Bristol butcher every Wednesday, and finally finished her working days at the Milk factory in Maiden Newton.
Bessie’s father, George Coombes died in September 1957 and her mother Florrie Coombes on November 29, 1971. Sadly Bert had died on April 18, 1967, bringing an end to a very happy marriage of some 38 years.
After Bert’s death Bessie concentrated on her family, her grandchildren and then later on her great grandchildren also. She was devoted to them and always had time for everyone. She was a widow for almost as long as she was married, some 36 years. Her other interests were gardening, cooking and making her children’s clothes. She loved her TV and particularly enjoyed her football, being an avid Arsenal supporter. She had a very positive view of life, never really seeing herself as being old. She never complained. She loved her husband and her family and was greatly loved by them in return.
Bessie Sicilia Coombes died on November 1, 2002 at the Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester, Dorset and was cremated at Yeovil Crematorium.