Corporal Claude Percival Wilks (listed as Wilkes in some records), 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, was killed in action at the Battle of Aisne on 26th September 1914, aged 22. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Le Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Catherine-de-Barnes, Elmdon, and Solihull.
He was born in Elmdon Heath, Solihull in 1892, to parents Harvey Albert Wilks and Emma (née Neal) who had married in Worcester in 1890, when Harvey was 19 years old and Emma was 22. Emma had been born in Hampton-in-Arden in 1868.
The newly-weds set up home in South Claines, Worcestershire, where their eldest son, also Harvey Albert Wilks, was born in 1891. It seems that they had moved back to Solihull by the time of Claude’s birth in 1892. At the time of the 1901 census, Claude and his elder brother, Albert, were living in Elmdon Heath with their great-grandparents, William and Elizabeth Smith.
By 1911, Claude was recorded as a Rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was 19 years old and was living at Shorncliffe Camp, Kent. His widowed mother was living in Elmdon Heath with her 19-year-old son, Harvey, and her 76-year-old widowed grandfather, William Smith.
Claude is mentioned in the Solihull Parish Magazine, November 1914. The rector says “As a member of the Congregation at Catherine-de-Barnes, he was Confirmed about ten years ago. He was a member of our Football Club and won many prizes at our Flower Show sports two years ago.”
He won a medal, aged 12, for winning the Solihull Athletic Club Handicap Mile in 1904. He also won a pocket watch in August 1913 for winning the mile race at Solihull Athletic Club’s sports day, by which time he was already a Corporal. In the season 1913/14 he won a runners-up medal for playing in the regimental football team.
His brother, Harvey, a boot repairer, volunteered for the Army the year after his younger brother’s death. He enlisted at Solihull on 19th November 1915, aged 24. He gave his address as that of his mother, Warwick Road, Solihull.
The family had a boot- and shoe-making shop in New Road, Solihull but, with one son having been killed, Emma Wilks sold the business after her son Harvey joined up, thinking that he too wouldn’t return. After discharge from the Army, and with no business to return to, Harvey re-enlisted in the Machine Gun Corps in April 1919 whilst in Germany. He was the regimental boot repairer. He was finally discharged in 1922, giving his intended residence as “Victorian Villas, Drury Lane, Solihull”. He died in Birmingham in 1972, aged 80.
If you have any more information about the family please let us know.
Many thanks to Claude’s great-nephew, Mr R. Wilks, for the above photos and additional information.
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