Brothers in Arms

In an age of larger families, it wasn’t unusual for a couple to have more than one of their children serving in the Armed Forces and, indeed, to have more than one child killed.

Local families we know of where several siblings served are:

  • Balkwill of Hampton Lane, Knowle (John and his younger brother, Charles Vince, Second Lieutenants with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the London Rifle Brigade respectively, were both killed on the same day -1st July 1916).
  • Barker family of Berkswell (brothers George Edward and Henry were both Sergeants and were killed on 23rd October 1914 whilst serving with the 1st Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry).
  • Barker family of Olton (Colonel Sir Francis William James Barker had four sons serving as regular soldiers during the war: Ernest, Godfrey (died 1915), William [Bill] and Cecil. Ernest and Bill were both awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.).
  • Barker (also recorded as Birkett-Barker) family of Lapworth (brothers Allen Noel Birkett Barker and Holroyd Birkett Barker both killed).
  • Baulcombe family of Bentley Heath (two brothers killed (Frank and Frederick), two other brothers (Harry and Harold) survived. Harry was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal “for consistent good work and devotion to duty”. One one occasion he worked day and night for four consecutive days and was Mentioned in Despatches. Three sisters also served in France as nurses. It is said their mother, Selina, never recovered from the deaths of her two sons, and up until she died in 1939, would listen out for trains at Dorridge Station, hoping the boys would come home.
  • Bellamy family of Lapworth and Hockley Heath (brothers George and Thomas both died. Their parents, George and Mary Ann ran a grocer’s shop on Stratford Road, Lapworth, in 1891, before moving to Hockley Heath).
  • Bradburn family of Tanworth-in-Arden (brothers Harry and Richard were both killed in action in 1918. Their parents, Richard and Ann, lived in Wootton Wawen and ran a tea room. Harry and Richard both lived in Birmingham at the time of enlistment).
  • Britt family of Elmdon (three out of six sons were killed – Albert, Sidney and William Henry. Sidney’s only child was born three months after his father’s death. Albert’s wife, Rose, confirmed in the St Alphege parish magazine, Feb. 1916, that her husband (missing since October 1914) was now presumed dead. She said that she had six young children but could make arrangements for their care by day, and appealed for work including cooking and cleaning).
  • Corser family of Olton. (Architect, Benjamin Corser, and his wife, Frances Emily, saw one of their sons killed, and two others serve in the Armed Forces and survive the war. Their youngest son, Percy, a sculptor who had emigrated to Australia, was killed at Gallipoli in April 1915. His older brothers, Robert Boulton Corser and Charles Huskisson Corser joined up before the war – Robert attended Sandhurst and served in the Army as a Lieutenant and then Captain 1904-1922, being wounded in November 1914, near Ypres; Charles was a Lieutenant with the Royal Indian Marine from 1911 and was reported as being seriously injured in March 1915, whilst serving on RIMS Dufferin).
  • Cox family of Monkspath and Copt Heath (brothers Edward John and Arthur Noel both died, another brother Sgt Frederick Tom Cox enlisted in Warwickshire Yeomanry in 1905 and was discharged in May 1915 as being no longer fit for service. A fall from a horse during a steeple chase at Claverdon in 1909 resulted in concussion and chronic memory loss).
  • Cranmer family of Lapworth (brothers Christopher and Oliver were both killed).
  • Edgar family of Hockley Heath (five brothers served, with Corporal Adam Edgar being killed in 1915).
  • Eden family of Castle Bromwich (seven brothers out of eight are known to have served in the Army. Frank and Arthur both died, a third brother, Percy, appears to have served with the Royal Field Artillery 1901-1920 and survived the war. Other brothers, Harry, Albert and Ernest seem to have been regular soldiers with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, whilst another brother, Fred, joined the Royal Artillery in 1902, serving three years with the Colours before discharge to the Reserves 1905-14). Youngest brother, John, was already on active service with the Rifle Brigade in September 1914.
  • Else family of Acocks Green. Albert Else was educated at Solihull School and joined the Army Service Corps in April 1917. At the time of his death, aged 21, in October 1918, he was attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery. His eldest brother, John, served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and seems to have survived the war, after first entering a theatre of war (France) on 27th March 1915.
  • Gell family of Solihull. Territorial soldier, Lieut.-Col. William Charles Coleman Gell, was Solihull’s most decorated serviceman of the Great War (being awarded DSO and bar, MC, Mentioned in Despatches three times, Brevet-Major, Italian Silver Medal for Valour). He survived the war and also served during the Second World War. His brother, Capt. Harold Marriott Gell (1886-1972) received the Military Cross and was also twice Mentioned in Despatches. Their sister, Katharine Marion Gell, also served at the Hermitage Auxiliary Hospital as a British Red Cross Volunteer Aid Detachment nurse.
  • Harris family of Packwood. Parents Alfred and Sarah Ellen Harris of Roslyn, Packwood saw four of their five sons serve in the First World War. Brothers John Bertram and Francis George both died. Two other brothers, William Greening, and Edgar Squires, both served and survived.
  • Haynes family of Knowle. Parents Thomas William and Jane Haynes lived in Station Road, and saw two of their four sons die in the war. 36-year-old Thomas Walter died in August 1916, whilst his younger brother, Charles Henry, a regular soldier, died two months later.
  • Hawkes brothers John and Horace Alfred are commemorated at Olton. Both boys were born in Leek Wootton, but the family obviously moved around and they had younger siblings born in Dudley and in Kenilworth. John emigrated to Montreal, Canada c.1913 and then enlisted into the Royal Canadian Highlanders in 1915. He survived the war, emigrated from Canada to the USA in 1919, and then died in Saco, Maine in May 1920 with “life in the trenches” listed on his death certificate as a contributory cause of death. His brother, Horace, died just before Christmas 1918 and is buried at Sheldon.
  • Hayter family of Elmdon. Canon Harrison Goodenough Hayter (1855-1934) was Rector of Elmdon 1892-1934. He had five sons, one of whom died in infancy, the other four of whom went onto serve with the Armed Forces. Remarkably all four survived the war. His eldest son, George Theodore Meynell Ingram Hayter (1886-1956) became a clergyman and served as a Chaplain to the Forces 1916-17;  John Grenville Hayter (1890-1986) became a Captain (Acting Major) with the Royal Field Artillery and received the Military Cross; Captain Mark Cholmondeley Hayter (1891-1969) served with the Middlesex Hussars before joining the Royal Air Force; Captain James Benedict Arden Hayter (1893-1962) joined the 15th Hussars as a Second Lieutenant, later becoming a Captain with the Machine Gun Corps. He first entered a Theatre of War in May 1915.
  • Irons family of Castle Bromwich (three brothers died: Alfred Richard (who seems to be on the war memorial as F. Irons so maybe he was known as Fred) Edward Arthur; and George William. Their mother, Lizzie, died in 1909 so pre-deceased these three boys.
  • Jones family of Hampton-in-Arden (Three out of five sons were killed. Brothers Collins and Charles were both killed in the same action, on day apart in July 1916. Their older brother, Thomas Pargetter Jones MBE, died in 1918 serving with the Royal Air Force).
  • Knibb family of Dorridge (Alfred was killed, and his brother Thomas survived being wounded three times).
  • Laubenburg family of Olton (Lieut. Jack Hiley Laubenburg served in the Royal Flying Corps, whilst his sister, Ella Beatrice Laubenburg, a staff nurse, served on the Front with the Belgian Red Cross.
  • Lawley family of Shirley (brothers William John and Rudolph, sons of Thomas and Ada Clara Lawley, Stratford Road, Shirley both died.
  • Lovegrove family of Copt Heath (William Ernest died after an operation for appendicitis. He had a brother who also served and survived the war).
  • Ludlow family of Knowle and Solihull. The two sons of Brigadier General Walter Robert Ludlow of Lovelace Hill both served in the war. Captain Stratford Walter Ludlow was killed. His elder brother, Carlton Walter Preston Ludlow, was a regular soldier serving with the Somerset Light Infantry and survived the war.
  • Neal(e) family of Shirley (Arthur Sydney Neale was killed, his three brothers, Alfred Charles Neale, George Henry Neal and John Walter Neale, all returned safely, although John Walter was wounded by a shell, shot in the finger, and gassed).
  • Nickson family of Solihull. (Brothers Cecil Raymond and Stuart Orford were both killed. A third brother, Dr. Horace Clarence Nickson served in Salonika as a Captain with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Their sister, Phyllis, presented an Altar Book to St Alphege Church in their memory. The book is now in the safekeeping of Solihull Central Library).
  • Perks familyof Shirley. (Brothers Albert and Fred, both in the Royal Warwicks, were killed two weeks apart in April 1917).
  • Prentice family of Barston. (Five sons of the 16 children born to William and Ellen Prentice served in the war.  James and Harry died, whilst the other three brothers returned home alive.  Their 13th child, Benjamin, was invalided out in October 1914, after being badly wounded by shrapnel. Despite 32 operations, his right leg had to be amputated. He became the village bootmaker and lived until 1949 (information from Barston News Sheet, no. 44, November 2014). A cousin, Arthur Ronald Prentice also died.
  • Savage family of Hampton-in-Arden (Brothers Joseph and William both died. Joseph died of wounds in July 1917 during the 3rd Battle of Ypres, and William was killed in action in October 1917).
  • Simmons family of Berkswell. Mr & Mrs George Simmons of Windmill Lane, Berkswell lost their sons Harry (serving with 1st Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regiment) and Charles (serving with the Royal Navy on board H.M.S. Tipperary).
  • Smith family of Berkswell. John Charles and Henry, sons of Joseph & Anne Smith, Park Lane, Berkswell, both died. A third brother, Norman Leslie, enlisted in January 1915, claiming to be 19, whilst actually only 15. He served for almost four months before being discharged “having made a mistatement as to his age on enlistment”.
  • Smith family of Solihull (brothers Harold Shirley Smith and Walter Campbell Smith both served in the Army, whilst their sister Doris Hamilton Smith became a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse with the British Red Cross. All three survived the war).
  • Smitten family of Knowle (brothers William Henry and George Arthur both died within two months of each other in 1916. Their first cousin once removed, Francis Smitten, was also killed in 1916).
  • Stones family of Solihull (brothers Eric and Shepherd both killed).
  • Temple family of Olton (brothers Norman and Harold both served as officers. Norman was a Second Lieutenant with 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, and was wounded in May 1915. Harold was a Captain in the Territorials, working in New Zealand with the Christchurch Gas Company in 1914, but rejoined his regiment (8th Territorial Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment) on the outbreak of war. Both brothers are believed to have survived.
  • Townsend family of Lyndon End, Olton (George was killed in July 1918, aged 25, and his younger brother, William John, was killed in October 1918. Both served with The King’s (Liverpool Regiment)
  • Turner family of Solihull (Tom was killed at Gallipoli, and his brother, Dick, served in the Royal Navy 1911-1927).
  • Waters family of Olton (brothers Leslie and Lawrence were both killed).
  • Wilks family of Elmdon (Claude Percival Wilks was one of the earliest casualties, being killed in action on 26 Sept 1914. His brother Harvey Albert Wilks, enlisted in December 1915 and survived the war. He was discharged in 1922 and died in 1972. aged 80.
  • Willmott family of Coleshill. Both of the sons of George Dyott Willmot were killed in the war. John Dyott Willmot and Robert Dyott Willmot died two years apart, both aged 19. Their sister, Mary Georgina (known as Georgina) was a Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A. D.) nurse with the Red Cross, and their parents were commandants of the auxiliary hospital in Coleshill. Their father was also the Chairman of the Finance Committee that organised the erection of the Coleshill war memorial. Although Coleshill wasn’t in the Solihull Rural District, Robert attended Packwood Haugh School, which was part of Solihull at the time of the war.
  • Woollaston family of Shirley (brothers Alline Mountford and Bradford Neville were both killed).
  • Wright family of Acocks Green. Wilfred Eric Wright was educated at Solihull School and, on the outbreak of war,  joined the colours with four of his brothers. Two of the brothers came back from Canada in order to join English regiments. Wilfred was invalided home after an accident but fell ill with influenza and died of pneumonia in a hospital in Scarborough.
  • Wright family of Solihull. (Brothers John Shilvock Wright and William Edward Wright both served. John was killed, William was gassed, and then discovered to be under-age).

If you have any further information or photos of any of the families, or know of any other family groups from places now within the Solihull borough, please let us know (email or phone 0121 704 6977).

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

5 thoughts on “Brothers in Arms

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  1. I live in new street castle bromwich in percy edens house and have other eden brother’s names and service history hand written in the side enterence of my home. Would love to find out more about the eden brothers.

      1. Thank you for passing on the information regarding the eden family. Im sure it must be the same family. One of the names also listed on my wall is barry k Eden. Do you have any information on him or his brother percy.

      2. I can’t find a Barry listed – the brothers we know of are: Henry, Albert, Ernest, Percy, Fred, Arthur, Frank, John, and they had a younger sister, May.

        Percy was born in 1881 in Tanworth-in-Arden and his death was registered in Birmingham in 1952. He enlisted as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery in April 1901 and served for 12 years, being discharged from the Reserves in April 1913, although it looks as if he immediately re-enlisted. He married Beatrice Mary East at Castle Bromwich on 23rd July 1910 and they had a child, Doris Gwendoline, born in Aston on 16th May 1915. He was discharged from the Army on 31st March 1920 and it looks as if he went to live with his wife in Birmingham.

        It seems that his brothers Albert and Ernest served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, whilst Fred also enlisted in the Royal Artillery, joining a year after Percy (April 1902) and being discharged from the Reserves in April 1914. Brothers Frank and Arthur both died in the First World War.

        Hope this helps.

      3. Thank you for taking time out to find out this information. Its been very informative and sad also. I have no connection with the family but just feel i owe it to them to learn more about them for what they sacrficed as a family for me/us.

        Thank you again

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